Greek arms deal corruption prompts increased oversight

14/01/2014

Greek authorities act to restore trust in the armed forces.

By Andy Dabilis for Southeast European Times in Athens -- 14/01/14

photo

At least 10 high-level military officers were implicated in a corruption scandal in Greece just months after former defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos (left) was sentenced to 20 years in prison on corruption charges. [AFP]

The Greek government said it will overhaul contract awarding procedures and place defence contracts under increased parliamentary oversight following a corruption scandal in which at least 10 high-ranking military officers have been implicated for taking bribes to approve contracts for foreign arms manufacturers.

Retired Vice Admiral Vassilis Martzoukos appealed to the government to reorganise the procurement procedures for defence supplies and set an example for everyone involved in corruption.

"[T]here should be severe punishment for any corrupt officer because they do not have the right to contaminate the name of the Greek armed forces, which is the only state institution that citizens trust," Martzoukos told SETimes.

As the scandal unfolds, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras pledged another crackdown on corruption and asked the justice ministry to show no leniency.

The scandal broke after Antonis Kantas, former procurement chief turned state witness, testified he took nearly 12 million euros in bribes to approve contracts for German, French, Russian and other foreign arms manufacturers.

The contracts included purchases of submarines, tanks, fighter jets and missiles.

The contracts were awarded in the late 1990s and early 2000s under the PASOK socialist governments, when tensions with Turkey were high and authorities decided to update Greece's military arsenal.

Another witness, Panayiotis Efstathiou, who represented the German defence firm Atlas Elektronik, testified the former chief of the general staff and the former navy chief were among the officers who took bribes.

"Graft was an unfortunate and appalling reality. The majority of Greek officers carry out their duties conscientiously. Unfortunately, a minority seek and demand bribes for implementing weapons programs," Efstathiou said through an attorney.

A third witness, Dimitris Papachristos, who represented German arms manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), was jailed pending trial after he testified.

While the government is also investigating former defence minister Yiannos Papantoniou for failing to report the source of his wealth, German authorities said they will probe whether KMW bribed at least one other Greek official to buy 170 Leopard 2 tanks.

The latest scandal comes just months after another former defence minister, Akis Tsohatzopoulos, was sentenced to 20 years in jail on corruption charges.

The scandals have shaken Greece's military, whose budget was sharply reduced on EU-IMF-ECB orders so that the troika would put up 240 million euros in two bailouts.

"[The scandals are] not a surprise to many Greeks since transparency has not been very strong in business deals between state institutions and domestic and foreign companies," John Nomikos, who heads the Research Institute for European and American Studies in Athens, told SETimes.

Greece was a major arms purchaser during the last three decades of high tensions with NATO ally Turkey, but new orders have dried up since the economic crisis began in 2009.

Making bribery the norm in the defence ministry created a high-level security breach where officials always ran the risk of being blackmailed, said Ioannis Michaletos of the Athens-based Institute for Security and Defence Analysis.

Related Articles

Loading

"It is likely weapons that were not needed were procured, which also puts a severe strain on the budget in the years ahead," Michaletos told SETimes.

Military officials, however, said they are encouraged by the government's plans for new measures to stem corruption.

"[They are meant to] guarantee the reputation of the armed forces," Greece's Defence Minister Dimitrios Avramopoulos said.

What can the Greek authorities do to eliminate corruption in the military? Tell us your opinion in the comments space.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
Loading
Vote
 
 
  • Email to a friend
  • icon Print Version
  • Share/Save/Bookmark

We welcome your comments on SETimes's articles.

It is our hope that you will use this forum to interact with other readers across Southeast Europe. In order to keep this experience interesting, we ask you to follow the rules outlined in the comments policy. By submitting comments, you are consenting to these rules. While SETimes.com encourages discussion on all subjects, including sensitive ones, the comments posted are solely the views of those submitting them. SETimes.com does not necessarily endorse or agree with the ideas, views, or opinions voiced in these comments. SETimes.com welcomes constructive discussion but discourages the use of copy-pasted materials, unaccompanied links and one-line slogans. This is a moderated forum. Comments deemed abusive, offensive, or those containing profanity may not be published.

SETimes's Comments Policy

Focus on Ukraine

Reportage

Serbia works to improve its anti-terrorism capabilitiesSerbia works to improve its anti-terrorism capabilities

Serbia is increasing efforts to fight terrorism, which is crucial for citizens' safety, EU integration and resistance to ISIL, experts and officials say.

SETimes logo

Most Popular

Loading
Loading
Loading

Poll

Will the recent parliamentary elections in Ukraine set the stage for peace and integration with Europe?

Yes
No
I don't know