A bid to secure the return of the main suspect in the Siemens bribery case, Michalis Christoforakos, to Greece hit the buffers last week when a top German court decided to halt the process pending an appeal by his lawyers.

The Federal Constitutional Court of Karlsruhe informed Greek judicial authorities at about noon that it had decided to hear Christoforakos’s appeal against his extradition.

A Munich court had last week cleared the way for the ex-Siemens Hellas CEO to be sent back to Greece.

Christoforakos’s lawyers had appealed the verdict, arguing that their client was not guaranteed a fair trial in Greece.

They based their argument on the fact that two other suspects in the corruption probe, former Siemens Hellas executive Giorgos Skarpelis and ex-OTE telecom official Ilias Georgiou, had been released from custody after a council of judges ruled that in both cases magistrate Nikos Zagorianos had been wrong to arrest them before giving their legal teams full access to all the relevant case documents.

The constitutional court’s decision to examine the appeal came as a surprise to authorities in Athens.

A prosecutor and several police officers had been due to make the trip to Munich to bring Christoforakos back.

It is unclear how long the German court will now take to examine the appeal.

The delay in his return sparked the expected exchange of barbs between New Democracy and PASOK.

The Socialists accused the government of simply wanting Christoforakos to be extradited so they can parade him in handcuffs in front of cameras.

The wait for Christoforakos’s future to be decided is also playing havoc with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s planning ahead of his keynote speech at the Thessaloniki International Fair during the first weekend of September.

Greek sources said last week that Karamanlis has yet to decide whether to call snap elections and when he should reshuffle his Cabinet.

The decision of Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court could yet have an impact on Karamanlis’s thinking before he visits Thessaloniki.

In the meantime, the government continues to slam PASOK over its decision to contact Christoforakos’s legal team to ask for any documents the suspect has that back up allegations that he bribed Socialist officials to help secure state contracts for Siemens Hellas.

“PASOK should itself answer some very basic questions before it starts posing questions to others,” said Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis.

Meanwhile, the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) limit the damage done by one of its own MPs, Pericles Korovesis, who suggested that leftists had also accepted under-the-table payments when they were part of a coalition government in 1989.

SYRIZA asked Korovesis to retract his comments or to resign.