The government was licking its wounds Monday after Yiannis Kalogritsas, one of four winning bidders in a recent auction of nationwide television licenses – and under increasing public scrutiny over his suitability as a candidate – withdrew from contention after his company was unable to pay the first installment of the license fee on time.
Kalogritsas said he was pulling out, citing “corrupt circles” that had accused him of tax evasion. His participation, and winning bid, at the auction drew a concerted chorus of dismay from the opposition and even from within the coalition parties over claims that he was not properly vetted.
His winning bid also bolstered the claim by critics that the government, rather than bringing an end to corruption and backroom deals between the media moguls and politicians, was changing the country’s TV broadcasting landscape to get rid of its critics to accommodate channels of its own liking.
Despite acknowledging behind the scenes that it made a mistake with Kalogritsas, the government was somewhat relieved, as there was a general consensus that he could have caused greater problems down the line because of his baggage carriage. He is also the son of a construction magnate with leftist links who is under investigation for tax evasion.
According to opposition New Democracy, Kalogritsas’s withdrawal vindicated its charges that the auction was discredited by a lack of transparency and a proper vetting process for candidates. Conservatives described the process as “a farcical comedy” that undermines democracy.
“Is there anyone that still believes in the integrity of this competition?” ND spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said Monday.
However, the government shot back, saying that by slamming its push to change the country’s media landscape, conservatives were making a mockery of themselves as they are backing “a regime of lawlessness and corruption that plagued the Greek media for almost 30 years.”
Kalogritsas’s withdrawal paved the way for the first runner-up in the competition, Russian-Greek entrepreneur Ivan Savvidis, who said he would pay the amount required to clinch the fourth license within a couple of days.