Siemens Greece ex-director held in bribes scandal
ATHENS, May 21 (Reuters) - A former director of engineering firm
Siemens (Xetra: 723610 - news) ' Greek unit was taken into custody on
Thursday pending trial on charges of bribery and money laundering in
contracts with Greek telecoms group OTE (Stuttgart: 903465 - news) , a
court official said.
Former general director Prodromos Mavrides has denied any wrongdoing in the 1997 case, in which prosecutors have also charged other ex-Siemens Greece staff over alleged bribes for contracts with the then state-controlled telecoms group.
'Last night, the investigating prosecutor ruled Mavrides should be kept in custody pending trial,' a court official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters. 'He was taken to jail this morning.'
The scandal is one of a series being investigated by Greek prosecutors. Although others have come to light in recent years, no Greek politician has yet been prosecuted.
Siemens ended one of the biggest corporate corruption investigations in history when it agreed in December last year to pay about 1 billion euros ($1.38 billion) in fines and penalties as a result of investigations by U.S. and German authorities into bribes it paid to win contracts.
Allegations that Greek politicians and political parties may have received money to grant Siemens lucrative contracts have dominated Greek media for months.
Greek prosecutors issued an international arrest warrant for Siemens Greece's former chief executive Michalis Christoforakos because he did not appear before the investigating prosecutor to respond to the charges, citing health problems.
A lawyer for Mavrides, charged in connection with a contract for the digitisation of OTE's network, said there was no danger his client would flee and he should not have been jailed.
'Mavrides' pre-trial detention does not serve any purpose,' Ioannis Markoulakos told Greek state television. According to Greek law, pre-trial detention can last up to 18 months.
Conservative Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis won elections in 2004 on a pledge to clean up Greek politics after decades of sleaze among the ruling socialists.
His government has been rocked by scandals in its five years in office, ranging from land swaps between the state and a monastery to a ship owner testifying that an aide to a minister asked him for bribes for ferry contracts.
The corruption allegations have hurt the government's popularity, and it trails the opposition socialists in the approach to European Parliament elections in June.
(Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Additional reporting by Harry Papachristou; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Andrew Dobbie) ($1=.7254 Euro) Keywords: GREECE SIEMENS/