Tsipras stands by his defense minister on Saudi deal

Tsipras stands by his defense minister on Saudi deal
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Mutual recriminations between the Syriza-Anel ruling coalition and opposition parties reached fevered pitch today over the abortive sale of munitions to Saudi Arabia, with Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who claims he is the victim of a mud-slinging campaign, attempting to link to New Democracy and Pasok the middleman named Vasilis Papadopoulos that he allegedly brought into the deal.

Kammenos insisted that the Saudis chose Papadopoulos as their representative, and that the inter-state contract provided that the purchase price of 66 million euros would be transferred directly by the Saudi finance ministry to a Greek finance ministry account, thus precluding any possibility of a kickback.

Kammenos said that the agreement signed by Papadopoulos and the Greek military’s representative was sent to the ambassador of Greece in Riyadh and the Saudi ambassador in Athens, and that the representative was not placed in doubt.

ND on the war path

Top MPs of main opposition New Democracy took turns in attacking both Kammenos and Tsipras.

ND vice-president and MP Adonis Georgiadis asked Kammenos “Did you deceived us by mistake or if you were on the take?”. Konstantinos Tasoulas, who tabled the parliamentary question debated today, described the Saudi deal as a “shameful agreement”. ND deputy Yorgos Koumoutsakos, a former diplomat and foreign ministry spokesman, declared that the prime minister himself “bears responsibility and must assume it, not in word but in deed,” implying that Kammenos should be sacked.

The affair is currently being probed by both the Supreme Court and Greek military justice.

In an angry address, Tsipras repeatedly described the entire affair as “demagogic twaddle”, and he depicted New Democracy as the organ of corrupt media interests and of another buisinessman that it allegedly wanted to act as intermediary.

“I have nothing to hide. That is why I fear nothing. I came not to apologise but to reveal your game,” the PM said.

He went on to blast ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis for alleged ties with Siemens and for allegedly not having submitted his E9 declaration of real estate holdings, which is a mandatory part of all tax returns.

“What do you think? Do you believe that governments fall because of the barons of para-judicial power?” Tsipras asked, without offering further clarification.

Blaming the ambassador

“What we have here is not a middleman, but an authorised representative of Saudi Arabia. Our ambassador in Riyadh attempted to show that he [Papadopoulos] was not chosen by the embassy but by Mr. Kammenos,” Tsipras said.

“Your main argument, Mr. Mitsotakis, is that our embassy in Riyadh warned us not to go ahead with this sale,” Tsipras said. “But if God loves the thief, he also loves the owner,” he added, noting a Greek saying that suggests everyone gets their just deserts.

Tsipras blast old Pasok kickbacks

Turning to Pasok MP Andreas Loverdos, who submitted to parliament leaked classified documents regarding the affair, Tsipras said, “Let Mr. Loverdos bring the minutes of the Government Council on Foreign Affairs and Defense from the time [under Pasok rule], when kickbacks were being given right and left.”

The PM’s account of events

“Mr. Papadopoulos came to us in May, 2016, and presented an authorisation from the director of procurement at the Saudi Arabian defense ministry. We followed the procedures for confirming the authenticity of the authorisation,” the PM told parliament.

“There is a September, 2016, document confirming the authenticity of the authorisation. Saudi Arabia responded. A document dated 17 November, 2016, is an official certificate for use by the director of the armaments committee. Hence, already on 17 November our embassy in Riyadh knew that we were dealing with a certified representative of Saudi Arabia”.

Mitsotakis’ questions

ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that the prime minister bears personal responsibility for the outcome of the sale, as he had chaired the Government Council on Foreign Affairs and Defense, which approved the deal, as it must do for all weapons procurement and sales.

The main opposition leader posed a series of questions to the PM, including:

1. Why did you choose to use a middleman despite the related prohibition in a 2011 law?

2. Why was the deal signed by this particular middleman who had been slapped with penalties by the state [reportedly a contraband case] and of whom the Greek embassy in Riyadh said that he did not represent the Saudis?

3. Is there or is there not a contract, and if there is why have the 66 million euros not been deposited, and if there is not, who is responsible for the 66 milliion in profit losses?

4. Why was parliament not informed of Papadopoulos’ role in the deal?

5. Parliament approved the sale of 300,000 projectiles, and the Saudis wanted only 100,000, so where did the other 200,000 go, and who pocketed the money?

6. Has Mr. Papadopoulos bid on other contracts and do you know him after all or not?

“Did you know all of this Mr. Tsipras. Did you approve all this? Do you continue to support Mr. Kammenos, or not?” Mitsotakis asked.

New Democracy, Pasok knew middleman

For his part, Kammenos attempted to show that both New Democracy and Pasok were familiar with middleman Vasilis Papadopoulos for years.

“Since you ask me if I know him [Papadopoulos], I say yes, I do know him, from Mr. Mitsotakis. A short while ago I received information from the foreign ministry that [the late prime minister] Constantine Mitsotakis had in 1988 decided that the National Bank of Greece would give a loan to Russia which would compensate Greek exporters, and in 1991 he went on a mission to Russia along with the bank governor [Dimitrios Germidis],” Kammenos said.

“In his entourage was Elias Papadopoulos and his son [Vasilis], and they received millions,” Kammenos said, alleging that Papadopoulos received 67 million drachmas from the deal.

The defense minister claimed that Vasilis Papadopoulos’ lawyer is a current New Democracy MP, who remained unnamed.

Kammenos also claimed that Pasok leader Fofi Gennimatas had contact with Papadopoulos when she served as alternate defense minister, in 2013.






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