As a corruption scandal in the Greek Defense Ministry has widened to implicate top military officials, the government said it would change the way contracts are let and awarded.
Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said he’s making the revision to “safeguard transparency and to protect the prestige, trustworthiness and national mission of the armed forces,” as its reputation is being battered after accusations that former chiefs of staff of the army and navy both demanded bribes in return for giving their okay for arms deals.
The scandal has led to one suspect, 78-year-old Dimitris Papachristos being remanded in custody, another – 83-year-old Panayiotis Efstathiou – released on bail and a third – Antonis Kantas- saying he would return 9.5 million euros he received in bribes.
Efstathiou was alleged to have made under-the-table payments to Kantas. Efstathiou, a former representative of German firm Atlas Elektronik, was released on bail of 500,000 euros after completing his deposition. Efstathiou admitted to paying bribes but said that he was blackmailed into doing so by Kantas, who allegedly vowed to award contracts to other companies if he was not paid off.
Papachristos, who represented the German firm Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, was accused of paying a 750,000-euro bribe to Kantas.
Prosecutors are investigating the alleged payment of bribes worth hundreds of millions of euros to former senior defense officials to secure weapons deals under PASOK Socialist governments in the late 1990s and early 2000s following tension with regional rival Turkey. PASOK is now a partner in the coalition government led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative leader.
The procurement probe follows the arrest of former Socialist Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, who in October was sentenced to 20 years in prison following a related corruption investigation.
Last month, a former senior procurement official at the Defense Ministry, who served from 1997-2002 — mostly under Tsochatzopoulos — was arrested and admitted to taking some $15 million in bribes to back costly weapons purchases.
In testimony, a copy of which was seen by the Associated Press, Kantas claimed he received the bribes from local representatives of foreign arms manufacturers, including German, French and Russian firms. The deals allegedly included submarine, tank, fighter jet and missile purchases.
Two of the Greek contract negotiators named by Kantas have been arrested and charged with corruption and money laundering. Sources briefed on the case said both have admitted to giving bribes — but not to politicians.