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Kammenos strike one: Threatens officer over odd arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Featured Kammenos strike one: Threatens officer over odd arms sales to Saudi Arabia

An unprecedented episode between the Minister of Defense and a senior officer transpired, some time ago, in Panos Kammenos's office at the MoD, with so far unknown consequences, and issues spanning from Greece to Saudi Arabia and the Yemeni war, where 20 million people are trapped in a humanitarian crisis.

National Defense Minister Panos Kammenos reached the point of demanding the arrest of a brigadier, who has been serving in the Defense Procurement and Investment General Directorate since March, claiming that the Greek officer is undermining the deal, which could amount to 64 million euros .

"You are to remain under guard in the antechamber with no outside communication with anyone," ordered Panos Kammenos and asked the head of security of the Ministry of Defense to restrict the Brigadier, who the minister himself had chosen for this sensitive position five months earlier.

The explosive incident between the minister and the brigadier broke out on the morning of August 30th. The Minister had called the Officer to his office, and there, in the presence of the Chief of Staff of the General Staff, Admiral Vangelis Apostolakis, the Chief of General Staff of Greece,  Lieutenant General Alcibiades Stefanis and his other advisors, exploded. "Mr. Brigadier, you are being suspended because you belong to a circuit that is undermining the transnational agreement with Saudi Arabia," was the heavy accusation that Panos Kammenos leveled at the senior officer, his close associate until that moment. At the time of the exchange, outside the office, four military policemen waited under orders of the minister, with handcuffs, for instructions to arrest the brigadier.

For a few months, the MoD had been in talks with Riyadh on the transfer of tank ammunition to the Saudi Kingdom. The talks concern the sale of 300,000 105mm antitank rounds from the Greek Army's reserves to Saudi Arabia, with an estimated value of more than $ 64 million.

In order to complete the procurement, the Ministry of Defense signed a transnational agreement with a Greek businessman, named in the press as V.P. (whose name is now known to NewGreekTGV, who appears as a representative of the Saudis. The transnational agreement between Greece and Saudi Arabia was signed on 13 June between the Procurement and Investment General Directorate and the intermediary VP. at Mikra airport in Thessaloniki. In addition to the purchase of shells for tanks, the agreement included a provision for a possible sale to Riyadh of MK-82 and MK-83 aerial bombs, as the Saudi representative made it a prerequisite for completing the deal.

About two months later, on August 29, the Brigadier in charge of the Defense and Investment General Directorate met in the MoD with the head of the Saudi Ministry of Defense. Riyadh was anxious for the swift conclusion of the deal. It was at the time when the Saudi government was coming unde intense criticism from the international community for the military operations in Yemen, which have isplaced hundreds of thousands of civilians.

During the talks, the Defense Procurement and Investment General Director, an officer with the rank of Brigadier, told his Saudi interlocutor that he could inspect the munitions for sale at the Larissa air base. The Saudi officer, to the surprise of the Greek side, stated that he is the only person responsible for signing contracts and agreements of a military nature and that he knows nothing about the transnational agreement signed by the Greek side with the intermediary known as VP. who claimed to have been authorized by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In addition, the head of the Saudi Ministry of Defense said he had no funding for the purchase of the MK-82 and MK-83 aerial bombs, adding that there was no need to inspect them. Addressing the Greek Brigadier, the Saudi army officer asked for a direct procurement of 100,000 105mm antitank rounds, even as part of the existing transnational agreement, assuring that direct funding was approved.

The Brigadier replied that he had no instructions for the direct sale of 100,000 tank rounds to Riyadh, and, therefore, it was not possible. The Greek Brigadier explained to his interlocutor that he would have to re-submit - through the official hierarchy - a request if Saudi Arabia wanted to buy ammunition from the Greek Armed Forces stocks.

The Saudi army officer informed the Brigadier that his government would like for the munitions to be trans

poretd under guard to the airport or port of loading from where it would be accepted by a transporter certified by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Defense. The Brigadier replied that, according to standard procedure, the transport of ammunition to the port (or airport) of loading within Greek territory can be carried out by certified Greek carriers. The Saudi representative requested contact details of some certified transporters and the Brigadier instructed one of his subordinates to talk to the Army General Staff and get contact details for the relevant companies.

However, this seemingly innocuous procedure of transporting the munitions, seems to have been the cause of the tumult.

On the same day, August 29, a few hours after the meeting with the Saudi representative, the Brigadier received a phone call from VP, the intermediary who had signed the transnational agreement on behalf of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. When he heard the Brigadier telling him that the Saudis had asked for a direct contact with a certified carrier for the munitions, VP replied that he was sorry and added as a warning that he did not know what would come next.

The day after the phone call with the middleman, the brigadier was summoned to the office of Panos Kammenos at the Ministry of National Defense.

There the Brigadier was accused by the Minister of not respecting the confidentiality required by the transnational agreement and taking action beyond what was foreseen.

"Is it you, Brigadier who, despite explicit instructions not to meet the Saudis, you gave an officer the order to contact the carrier for the transportation of 100,000 rounds?" asked the Minister. According to the same information, the  brigadier replied that he had ordered the contact details of a Greek transport company to be transferred to the foreign officer but not specifically for the 100,000 rounds that Saudi Arabia had requested to buy directly from Greek Army stockpiles.

"Brigadier, you are being suspended, since you are in a circuit that undermines the transnational agreement with Saudi Arabia," was the "verdict" of the Minister of National Defense. According to the same information, Mr. Kammenos instructed his colleagues: "He is to remain under guard in the anteroom without any possibility of communicating with anyone". After about half an hour of isolation, the Brigadier was informed that the Minister had changed his decision and instead of being suspended he was transferred to another service in the Army General Staff .

The M1 105 mm rounds are used by the Greek Army for US made M48 A5Molf (originally M48 Patton, later upgraded through a German scheme). The original versions were armed with a 90mm gun, which were later upgraded to 105 mm. Greece had acquired more than 1,300 M48 tanks from the USA and the former West Germany. The Saudi army has 460 M60 Patton tanks, using the same gun, many of which are used in the invasion of Yemen.