Athens.- A Parliamentary Committee for the control of MP and party finances on Friday decided to order an in-depth audit of all assets owned by former PASOK minister Anastasios Mantelis and compare this with the declarations of means and assets that he had submitted to Parliament.
The decision was unanimous, following the former minister’s admission before a Parliamentary fact-finding committee two days earlier that he had received 200,000 marks in undeclared campaign contributions from the multinational Siemens in 1998.
According to judicial officials, the former Socialist transport minister has been charged with money laundering. Tassos Mantelis has been barred from leaving Greece but has not been arrested, pending further investigation.
The indictment will be ready within the next few days. The examining magistrates studied the testimonies made before the committee by Mantelis and his friend, businessman George Tsougranis, who will also face similar charges.
Tsougranis has admitted before the parliamentary committee that he had helped Mantelis open a bank account in November 1998, at which time Mantelis had confided in him that the money deposited in the account was a donation from Siemens.
Meanwhile, main opposition New Democracy (ND) party MP Costas Tzavaras requested that former PM Costas Simitis be summoned to testify as a witness in the parliamentary committee assigned with probing the Siemens kickbacks scandal. He underlined that the new facts made public following the shocking revelations made by Mantelis make the former PM’s testimony imperative.
In addition to Mantelis, the committee decided to also subject the assets of former MP Theodoros Tsoukatos to the same scrutiny, even though he has not yet been called up to testify before the Parliamentary investigation into the Siemens slush funds scandal.
The joint decision calls for the re-checking of annual statements of property and financial assets submitted by the former minister since 1990, as well as the opening and checking of all bank accounts held by Mantelis and his next of kin.
A written order to lift the privacy protection on Mantelis’ accounts was given in writing on Thursday by the Parliamentary Committee examining the Siemens scandal.
The audit will be carried out by a mixed team of certified public accountants and Parliament officials, which will check all their statements since 1990 in order to determine how they acquired property assets.
The next move will be to ask the Hellenic Court of Audit to confiscate Mantelis’ property assets up to the sum of the money he says was given by Siemens, in order to cover any civil law liability that may arise.
His bank account has already been frozen by decision of the Parliamentary committee investigating the Siemens case, after the former minister testified.
Finally, the minutes and decision of the committee will be sent to an appeals court prosecutor so that he can press additional charges against Mantelis for violating laws on the declaration of means and assets, an offence that bears a potential penalty of up to 10 years for concealing sums greater than 300,000 euros.
Former prime minister Costas Simitis on Saturday replied to main opposition New Democracy’s proposal that he be summoned to testify in the Parliamentary inquiry into the Siemens scandal, issuing a statement that said the fact-finding committee had “more serious things to do”.
The only purpose of ND’s proposal was to boost the leadership image of its president Antonis Samaras, he noted.
“When a former prime minister is summoned to a discussion without evidence or witness accounts that concern him personally, what will dominate is conjecture, unsupported assumptions, verbal insults and accusations. The aim, however, is the truth and not personal or party conflict,” he asserted.
Prime minister George Papandreou on Friday stressed his government’s determination to put an end to corruption “wherever it may be”, during a visit to Komotini.
“The government had to change in order for the truth to shine. This government will not suffice with just the appearances. The citizens realise this even if some have doubts,” he added.
Addressing the party’s Economic and Social Committee of Rhodopi, Papandreou also announced that the state will guarantee a 61 billion euros syndicated loan, by five banks, to the troubled “United Textiles Industries” (EN.KLO) so that the industry may go ahead with productive activities through its new business plan.
Papandreou further noted the importance placed on making use of the human potential, warning that “if we don’t invest in that, in a few years’ time they will come again and tell us to reduce salaries in order to be more competitive”.
Earlier, Papandreou visited the Center for Orientation and Social Support of Persons with a Disability.
“As government, we don’t want to simply settle ‘minor matters’ but to proceed with very big changes,” Papandreou said in Rhodopi.
He added that the state of the economy is a “symptom of the problem”, with the major problem being the function of the state and the political system that “we are curing” with significant changes.
With the EU support mechanism, he said, the government succeeded in saving the Greek economy, and “now we are called on to change, the support mechanism gave us a breather to make the changes”, adding that “historic changes” will be made over the coming mothings that will render the economy self-sufficient as well as outward-oriented.
Papandreou said that in the preceding years Greece had not “wasted” money on the social state but the money was lost through intransparency and privatisations and even to the benefit of speculators.
The premier further said that the preceding (New Democracy) government had not taken up PASOK’s call for striking a blow against corruption, and opted instead for silence and cover-up, which hurt the political system, the economy and the country’s credibility.
“This is what the Greek people are paying for today,” he said, adding that his government will night back down on its crackdown on corruption.
He said eliminating corruption is a matter of democracy and also a national, economic and developmental matter.
“I have been given a mandate to build a new New Democracy,” main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras stated on Friday commenting on the establishment of a ND Assessment Committee.
Responding to a question by reporters while entering the central party offices in Athens, Samaras added that he will not apologize for the past, stressing that he “will not apologize for behaviours adopted by (ND former MPs) Pavlidis, Voulgarakis or Roussopoulos. I want to make it clear that anyone who has hurt the party will not continue being with us but, at the same time, I will not allow anyone to be targeted unfairly.”
Earlier, the ND press office had announced that following a decision by Samaras, an Assessment Committee will be set up assigned with the continuous assessment and renewal of the ND party cadres to ensure that it will be a political party of values and principles.
In response, former ND MP Theodoros Roussopoulos underlined that based on the statement made by the ND leader “it is obvious that he (the ND leader) is the one who does not respect the procedures currently underway in Parliament and Greek Justice,” considering that “he has already issued his own decisions”.
“I expect to be judged by the Greek Justice and not by political party mechanisms serving own expediencies. I will make sure of that and I will be fully vindicated,” he stressed.