The good life and bad deeds of the Greek elite, featuring Margarita Mathiopoulus
Large numbers of poverty-stricken Greeks are wondering this weekend why their Finance Minister’s current account with an Athenian bank has in excess of three million euros in it. He is clearly a man with little need to worry about sweating his assets, and with every day the evidence as to why that might be keeps on piling up – thanks to the generosity of Greek contacts fed up of seeing their country rogered by fatties. It seems that no matter where you start in the Greek elite, all roads lead to Evangelo Venizelos. Today we start with Greco-German trougher, Margarita Mathiopoulus.
As the daughter of a senior leftist member of the Greek elite, Margarita Mathiopoulus was always going to be well-connected. After the military junta took over in Athens, the Mathiopoulus clan were given political asylum in Germany. Thus she grew up in the BundesRepublik, there mixing with many elements of the social democrat Left, and catching the eye of statesman Willy Brandt. She speaks fluent German and Greek, and very good English.
For a while her reputaion was based on a glittering academic career, but then some clouds appeared to spoil things a little. As the Soviet Union appeared more and more wobbly in the 1980s, Mathiopoulus declared in the German media that “The citizens of the GDR do not want reunification. At demonstrations they demand reform, not reunification. We have to recognise the division of Germany to overcome the division of Europe.” That was Brandt Ostpolitik personified – and an interesting comment given the events that immediately followed. Given the recent actions of Berlin, it sounds even more interesting.
She was proved spectacularly wrong – and classically gullible in the manner of most of the European soft Left at the time. But her governmental influence didn’t wane. In the academic sphere, however, her career took a nosedive. Investigative journalists at Der Spiegel had long suspected Margarita of being a phony, and in September 1989 the title reported that her doctoral dissertation was “in several places almost verbatim” copied from the work of others. Without much care or subtlety, it was fairly obvious that she had plagiarised other theses, and her doctorate was thus withdrawn. It was time for Margarita to diversify….and this she did with spectacular success.
From 1992 to 1997, she was a Board director, Head of Marketing Communications and International Relations at the Norddeutsche Landesbank.Very odd title that one, but perhaps reflecting that during this period she had become the Chief Foreign Policy Advisor to rising politician Guido Westerwelle. Herr Westerwelle is now Angela Merkel’s Foreign Minister. Hold that thought.
From 1998 to 2001, Mathiopoulos became chief adviser to the CEO of the UK aerospace and defence company BAE Systems. And we all know what happened there. But being female and therefore born to multi-task, in 2000 she also became Chairperson of the panel sitting to decide on how to restructure the Greek armed forces. And in that last year of chairing the future of corrupt Greek arms procurement, Margarita teamed up in July with Klaus Naumann , Istvan Gyarmati and Carl Bildt, to found the European Advisory Group (EAG) with offices in Berlin, Hong Kong and Washington, where she is still the managing partner.
Like I said, a seriously connected lady. But once again, all is not rosey in her cv. Thanks to very much appreciated assistance from the Greek website porta2porta (door to door), I am now able to reveal some details from a confidential report on defence issues between the German Bundesrepublik and the Hellenic Republic of Greece. Further revelations from this will follow tomorrow, but for the time being (although Ms Mathiopoulus doesn’t feature much in the report) she is a person uniquely well placed to have taken advantage or otherwise from the German/Greek defence relationship.
During her years of diversification, Mathiopoulus had become a facilitating consultant via EAG to one of the most crooked engineering and military suppliers in history, the German company Ferrostaal. Simply typing ‘Ferrostaal bribery’ into Google evokes 312,000 references and sites. We shall be learning a great deal more about Ferrostaal in due course, but let’s focus on EAG’s leading light for a few paragraphs. In 2004 – again with Maragarita’s alleged facilitation input – Ferrostaal formed a joint venture with German arms dealer KruppThyssen to supply submarines to various southern and Third World folks….including Greece. The venture – Marine Force International (MFI) – based itself in London. Given Mathiopoulus’s positive experiences with BaE, one can only assume that it was her advice that led to the office being based in the homeland of serial justice perverter Tony Blair.
As it happens, KruppThyssen is a straight company as far as one can tell. On 8th December last – following numerous graft charges being thrown at Ferrostaal by judges throughout Germany – Der Spiegel reported that Krupp was pulling out of MFI, effective immediately. The publication observed (my emphasis) ‘ThyssenKrupp’s planned withdrawal is believed to be linked to a corruption scandal involving Ferrostaal. The Munich public prosecutor’s office has accused Ferrostaal of paying millions of euros in bribes to Greece related to the purchase of 214-class submarines.’
The man in charge of the Defence portfolio in Greece from 2009-2011 was….Evangelo Venizelos. The very same man who, in 2005, authored a law to make all Greek Government ministers immune from corruption prosecutions. But meanwhile, back to Margarita the multitasking multinational minx. So central to the MFI joint venture was Mathiopoulus, she was consulting for the company even before it became operational. A confidential report commissioned by senior officials in Germany notes as follows:
‘[She] was to assist with anticipated projects in Egypt and Croatia. Although no projects materialised, Ms Mathiopoulus received 1.2 million euros….her attorney allegedly maintained in a telephone conversation with MFI that his client ‘could not turn up empty-handed’ for the discussions in Egypt’.
Call this a leap, but I guess that kind of fingers Margarita of the dolce vita as a bag-carrier for bribes. But there doesn’t seem to be a record of any money going from EAG to Egyptian authorities. Clearly, some of the MFI bigwigs concluded they’d been double-crossed. A later extract from the report states that:
‘MFI determined not to enter into additional agreements with Professor Mathiopoulus, notwithstanding various attempts on her part in the following years…’
This was the person chosen by the Greek elite to chair a committee about arms supplies. This was the committee that chose Ferrostaal as a major supplier of submarines (through MFI). Writes an opposition source in Athens:
‘Ferrostaal’s reputation as a corrupt supplier of arms was extremely well recognised long before this. They [the Government] have chosen them for the ease of making money, of stealing from Greek people. Venizelos was one of them. He still was last year. It is the same always in Greece….we are betrayed by the political class.’
The confidential report backs up this Slog correspondent’s allegation to the letter:
‘The overwhelming lack of compliance-related discussions and action at the Vorstand [Boardroom ] level is striking, particularly in the light of Ferrostaal’s history of paying bribes prior to Germany’s adoption of the OECD anti-bribery convention in 1997…’
Tomorrow I shall examine in more detail how poor German watchdog controls on bribery led to Greece being massively overcharged for many military items, particularly submarines….which don’t come cheap in the first place. We have already seen Berlin’s hypocrisy in enforcing the strangulation of the Hellenic economy via the ill-judged Troika austerity programme…while insisting that all German arms contracts are honoured in full.
But today’s piece is making a simple point, using the unfortunate but thoroughly deserving body of Margarita Mathiopoulus as the medium. It is this: the Greek elite is run on the basis of who knows whom, who has the contacts, who will pay the money, and where a turn can be made. Everyone knows everyone else in this tiny, almost incestuous Establishment – and almost all of them are ineluctably corrupted by the system into which they have been born.
Ms Mathiopoulus herself has shown how – despite cheating in her academic life, displaying glaring examples of poor judgement, and involvement in shady dealings – she has continued to prosper on the basis of happy connections rather than real talent. I am old-fashioned enough to reject David Cameron’s idea of ‘the leg up’. I think the leg up ends up in the carve-up….as the Greek people are finding to their sad cost.
The elite lording it over Greece are working for a paymaster, an EU, and a banking system shown to be equally corrupt, equally self-serving, and equally devoted to its own wellbeing at the expense of the citizens. Of course the Greeks don’t want to leave the euro, because they do not believe they can make it in the post-default world without the help of their EU ‘partners’. In the economic, political and social senses, that is simply bollocks: Greece will be a cleaner, more competitive, happier and prouder country out of the EU. As will, in time, the United Kingdom itself.
Emails from Greece – replete with attachments are flooding into the mailbox at email@example.com. If you have something to tell me about this or any other scandal, please do get in touch. Remember: there are only a few thousand of the self-appointed masters…and 210 million of us.