ATHENS/BERLIN, March 23 (Reuters) - Greece’s government wants more than 100 million euros ($110 million) in compensation from German defence companies it says paid bribes to win arms deals, a senior defence ministry source confirmed on Monday.
German newspaper Bild reported that Airbus’ Eurocopter helicopter unit was alleged to have paid 41 million euros in bribes to Greek officials to sell 20 NH-90 helicopters.
German defence group Rheinmetall, STN and Atlas Elektronik are also alleged to have paid a total of 62 million euros in bribes for submarine contracts, Bild said.
The defence ministry source confirmed to Reuters that Greece would seek about 100 million euros in compensation from these firms as part of an investigation that includes other cases.
“It’s a series of cases, not only German ones but mainly German, and Greece hopes it can get 500-800 million euros,” the source said. “Any firm that will be convicted (of bribery) and wants to continue trade relations with Greece should come to an out of court compromise,” the source said.
Greece has spent heavily on arms and has cut down in the last few years, partly to deal with a debt crisis that led to European Union and IMF bailouts totalling 240 billion euros ($328 billion) in 2010 and 2012.
Relations between Germany and Greece have been deteriorating as Athens tries to renegotiate its bailout terms and Berlin fears it will ditch previously agreed financial promises. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has also accused Berlin of using legal tricks to avoid paying compensation for the Nazi occupation.
Greece said last year it would overhaul arms procurement to make it more transparent.
A spokesman for Airbus Helicopters declined to comment, while a spokesman for Rheinmetall said the company did not have any notice of a new investigation.
In December, its subsidiary Rheinmetall Defence Electronics paid 37 million euros in fines to end a criminal investigation in Germany into suspected bribes in Greek arms deals.
No one at Atlas Elektronik was immediately available for comment. STN was acquired by Rheinmetall in 2003 and split into two companies. (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou in Athens; Additional reporting by Anneli Palmen in Dusseldorf, Georgina Prodhan in Frankfurt and Tim Hepher in Paris Writing by Caroline Copley; Editing by Louise Ireland)