Saudi arms affair bears ‘heavy whiff of scandal,’ ND’s Koumoutsakos tells ANA radio

The entire affair concerning the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia “smacks of an intention for kickbacks,” main opposition New Democracy MP George Koumoutsakos said in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency radio station ‘Praktoreio 104.9 FM’ on Monday.

“Everything collapsed suddenly because a lid opened and sent up a heavy whiff of scandal into the air; a lid that was opened by two public servants – a military officer and a member of the diplomatic staff – who have both been punished vindictively and intimidatingly,” he noted.

Commenting on the debate scheduled to take place in Parliament later in the day, in response to a question tabled by main opposition MPs to Defence Minister Panos Kammenos regarding the sale, ND’s shadow minister for foreign affairs also accused the SYRIZA government of altering a 2011 law forbidding the use of middle-men in sales of defence equipment.

“Something that everyone recognises was a severe sickness of the system in the past is now returning and returning in the worst possible way, with a man that has been convicted of illegal trade and yet
remains a steady interlocutor of the government,” Koumoutsakos said.

He also noted that the government had rushed to contradict the Greek diplomatic authority in Saudi Arabia, which said that Saudi authorities did not know or want the specific man to intervene on their behalf but were instead asking to deal with the Greek government directly.

“All the information, suggestions and timely warnings given by diplomatic staff and armed forces’ personnel, who are doing their jobs, are being deliberately ignored by the leadership, which intentionally disregards them – as everything shows – so that it can rush to clinch a deal that is unsupported and full of holes, with a man that has a dark past and an even darker present,” Koumoutsakos added.

The MP pointed out that, whereas the Saudis had originally asked to buy 100,000 units of the military equipment, the Greek side appeared to be selling 300,000 on paper, with serious questions raised over where the “extra” 200,000 units would go and how they would be used.

Commenting on the issue of the classified documents that were leaked in connection with the affair, Koumoutsakos agreed that secret documents should not be passed around willy-nilly. At the same time, he noted that the specific documents, which were written in extremely poor English, “could not be considered either serious or valid” and that the protection of classified documents was in any case the government’s responsibility.

“The government is not in a position to criticise anyone if classified documents are turned into flyers,” he added, commenting on a tweet posted by Kammenos claiming the involvement of a Turkish secret service agent in the leak. The minister’s admission that he was aware of the existence of such an agent, Koumoutsakos pointed out, was in itself “cause for a string of resignations, starting with the one making the admission and all the others involved in handling the classified material.”