Parliament committee finds no evidence to support criminal charge in submarine case

Reports by a Parliament committee investigating a scandal over faulty submarines purchased by Greece on Thursday found indications of grave political responsibility on the part of the ministers involved but no evidence to support a criminal investigation.
The investigation focused primarily on the terms of two contracts signed with the German firm HDW, one for the initial purchase of four submarines and a second for offset benefits.
Though each party on the committee submitted a separate report concerning the events between 2000-2009, they all agreed that the interests of the Greek state had been significantly harmed by the signature and execution of the contracts.
Main opposition New Democracy was the only party to exclude the period between 2004-2009, when the party was in government, from any share of responsibility.
According to ruling PASOK, "the Procurements Committee arrived at the conclusion that there is grave political responsibility of the national defence ministers of the period 2000-2009 concerning the contracts for the submarines. These responsibilities were strongly highlighted in the period 2006-2009 but at the present stage no evidence arose for further investigation of possible criminal responsibility."
Among the faults PASOK attributed to the ministers in charge were a weakness in the terms of the contract, a silent extension of the contract deadline, poorly conducted negotiations and confusion concerning the ability of the submarine "Papanikolis" to meet the contract specifications that impacted on how the two contracts for the submarines progressed.
PASOK MPs noted that the result was that the contractors eventually pulled out of the contract even though the Greek side had paid 2,033,100,000 euro, or 80 percent, of the total for the two contracts.
According to ND, there was clearly responsibility on the part of those that approved the signature of the contracts for the submarines but refused to accept that the ministers in the period 2004-2009 had any share in the responsibility since they were bound by the terms of the original bad contracts and had no option but to honour them.
ND MP Miltiadis Varvitsiotis also noted that the problems became apparent after 80 percent of the purchase price had already been paid.
The main opposition held Tsohatzopoulos responsible for the original contract for the building of 3+1 214-type submarines and the leadership of the defence ministry in 2002, when Yiannos Papantoniou was minister, for a subsequent off-set benefits contract that they said had held later ministry leadership "hostage".
It also noted that the Greek side's options were severely restricted under the terms of the contract since it held letters of guarantee only from Hellenic Shipyards rather than the contractor HDW or a bank, while the process of terminating the contract was judged counterproductive since it called for recourse to an arbitration court with unclear arbitration terms, that often led to a compromise at the expense of the Greek state.
The German side, by contrast, was protected by contractual terms that were extremely odious for the Greek state, ND added.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) shared blame equally between past PASOK and main opposition ND defence ministers, up to and including Evangelos Venizelos in the present government. KKE said that a number of aspects called for further investigation to determine whether there was also criminal liability.
The Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) was similarly even-handed in attributing blame on a political level, though highlighting the period when Evangelos Meimarakis was minister and the German side finally terminated the contract.
The Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) stressed the need for further investigation of the individuals named in a prosecutor's report, saying that the committee had been prevented from fully completing its work.
The committee asked Parliament President Philippos Petsalnikos to forward copies of their report to the president of the Legal Council of State, so that along with the report produced by the Parliamentary Preliminary Examination Committee investigating former minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, it would be able to establish the state's claim for damages in civil proceedings.
It also called for an assessment of the full damage to the public sector and that a copy of the report be sent to the Athens first-instance prosecutors' office to be included in the evidence file. The report noted that the evidence uncovered during an examination of the contracts will help assign responsibility to those involved, given that "the contractual weaknesses and faults are linked in the Committee's opinion with the bribery of individuals now under investigation by the prosecuting authority".

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