The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Athens has charged 23 persons for crimes related to contracts that should have restored the remote traffic control and signaling systems on the Greek rail network.
The announcement was made by EPPO on December 12, 2023 and details that 18 of the 23 persons are public officials.
The traffic control and signaling systems of Greece’s railways played a key role leading to the tragic Tempi train disaster of February 28, 2023.
According to the announcement, EPPO’s investigation into crimes related to the signaling systems started in November 28, 2022. The project was 85% funded by the EU’s Cohesion Fund program under “Modernization of Signaling-Telecommunications and Installation of the European Train Control System”.
In detail, the contracts were supposed to restore remote traffic control and signaling systems on the Athens-Thessaloniki-Promachonas part of the Greek rail system, but instead aimed to construct new signaling systems with telemetry units to support communication and data transfer between train stations and control centers.
The initial contracts were signed in 2014 between the Hellenic Railways Organization’s (OSE) subsidiary ERGOSE and a consortium contractor, which was actually comprised of two additional companies, and eventually resulted in the signing of supplementary contracts in 2019.
What ensued, according to EPPO, was an arbitrary splitting up of responsibilities through private contracts, a breach of contractual oblgations, a 2 million euro fine to ERGOSE, an unlawful modification to the original contract to jack up the value of the contract, and seven unlawful extensions of the original contract.
Moreover EPPO alleges that ERGOSE “intentionally declared incomplete and false information to the Managing Authority regarding the existence of facts critical to the distribution of the funds and the approval of the extensions.”
EPPO also asserts that officials of the Managing Authority are responsible and led Greek and the EU to lose 15.6 million euros, and possibly Greece’s National Transparency Authority for breach of duty.
EPPO details in their announcement that their investigation has resulted in the following charges which could carry 10 years of jail time and a fine:
- 14 public officials of ERGOSE, charged with subsidy fraud. Two of them are also accused of false certification with the purpose of obtaining an unfair advantage for another person;
- 4 public officials of the Greek Managing Authority of the EU’s Operational Programme for Transport Infrastructure, Environment and Sustainable Development (EYD/EP-YMEPEPAA), charged with misappropriation of funds;
- 5 legal representatives and employees of the Consortium Contractor, charged with instigation of subsidy fraud and instigation of false certification with the purpose of obtaining an unfair advantage for another person.