Former Siemens Exec Testifies In Graft Case

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- The former head of Siemens AG's Greek branch appeared Thursday before a magistrate investigating alleged corruption in a case that has dominated political debate before this weekend's European Parliament elections.

Volker Jung, 70, is the most senior of the seven former Siemens Hellas executives charged with bribery and money laundering over a 1990s contract the German industrial company won with Greece's dominant telecom operator, OTE.

A German national, Jung was a member of Siemens' executive board.

According to the charges, former Siemens officials paid some euro57 million ($81 million) in kickbacks to secure the deal with OTE, which was then state-owned.

Greek officials are also investigating alleged corruption in deals between Siemens and the state involving security systems for the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Ilias Georgiou, 68, on Thursday became the third former Siemens executive to be jailed pending trial. He had been hospitalized under police guard after falling ill Wednesday during his appearance before investigating magistrate Nikos Zagorianos.

Two more of the former Siemens executives have fled the country and one is out on bail.

A former OTE official faces similar charges. If convicted, the suspects -- who all deny wrongdoing -- face a minimum five-year sentence.

The scandal has battered public trust in the country's political system after widespread Greek media reports that the country's main parties allegedly received payments from Siemens slush funds.

The governing conservatives, trailing the main opposition Socialist party, PASOK, by more than 3 points before the weekend vote, have accused their opponents of involvement in the scandal.

Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said Thursday the Siemens affair "is a PASOK scandal."

A PASOK statement said the party "will not engage in mudslinging."

Last month, the conservatives blocked a PASOK motion for a Parliamentary probe into whether politicians were involved, arguing that the judicial inquiry was still in progress and had not implicated any serving or former government ministers.

Siemens is being investigated in several countries over allegations of bribery and corruption in its communications group. It has said it is cooperating in the investigations, and has introduced changes to make its corporate structure leaner and more transparent.