Greek corruption prosecutors on Thursday launched a criminal investigation into assertions of far-reaching corruption going up to the highest levels in the contract for the C4I security and surveillance system, purchased by Greece for the Olympic Games in 2004. According to suggestions by a former executive of a top French defence systems firm, “even the prime minister had taken bribes”.
Acting on orders from Supreme Court Prosecutor Xeni Dimitriou, the corruption prosecutors have opened a case based on the claims made 10 years earlier by the former CEO of Thales Engineering and Consulting, which in 2003 was awarded a contract to upgrade six Greek Navy frigates.
The CEO had been quoted in numerous articles, saying that Thales had failed to win a tender for the Olympic Games security system because the U.S. firm finally awarded the contract had bribed the Simitis government at the “highest level”.
In statements to French prosecutors, he said the head of Thales International Greece told him that the company’s bid had been rejected “because we bribed at a low level, whereas the Americans targeted the interior minister and the prime minister.
The U.S. firm Saic that got the C4I contract was supported by then U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, the French executive added.
The Thales executive’s testimony was sent to Greek authorities in 2006, together with other documents sent by French authorities to request Greece’s assistance in an investigation on corrupt practices adopted by Thales. It’s significance was not properly assessed, however, until press reports prompted Dimitriou to order an investigation into the claims.
In addition to the C4I, the former Thales chief also referred to bribery that occurred in order to win the frigates’ contract, specifically a contract for 400 million euros with Hellenic Shipyards SA as main contractor and Thales Nederland B.V. as sub-contractor. This was signed on February 12, 2003 with the then defence minister, Yiannos Papantoniou, following approval by the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence.
The head of Thales’ Greek subsidiary had confided in him that Thales had to pay a “cut of 7-10 pct for the Greek defence minister” in order to get the contract for the frigates, the French executive claimed.
Corruption prosecutors have carried out a raid on property owned by the head of Thales Greece and confiscated electronic evidence and documents.