NEWS

Way paved for probe of former minister

ARISTOTELIA PELONI

TAGS: Justice

The countdown has begun for the launch of a special parliamentary committee to probe the possible mishandling by former alternate justice minister Dimitris Papangelopoulos of the alleged bribery scandal involving prominent politicians and the Novartis pharmaceutical company after the submission Thursday of the relevant proposal by 30 New Democracy lawmakers – the number required by law.

The proposal will have to be discussed within 22 days of its submission to Parliament, which means it will be debated by October 20 at the latest.

After the debate, lawmakers will vote on whether to form a committee of inquiry. At least 151 MPs must vote in favor, and given that ruling New Democracy has a majority in Parliament, there is little doubt that the committee will be set up. The House will then have to select its members and decide on the deadline by which it will have to submit its findings.

The committee will investigate accusations that Papangelopoulos intervened in the judicial inquiry to incriminate the previous SYRIZA government’s political rivals.

The charges he may face include abuse of power, breach of duty and perjury.

“Through his constant interventions he systematically attempted to exert undue influence on the functioning of the judiciary in the investigation of various cases aimed at targeting and eliminating political opponents of the previous government,” the text of the proposal submitted Thursday said.

The text also suggested that Papangelopoulos’ illicit interventions were not limited to the Novartis probe but that he also offered his “protection” to judicial officials by “covering up their omissions and deliberate actions.”

Although the name of SYRIZA chief and former prime minister Alexis Tsipras is not mentioned in the proposal, it is considered almost certain that it will lead to a heated clash in Parliament between the leaders of New Democracy and the main opposition leftist party.

A probe into Tsipras’ role was ruled out last week after Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated earlier this month that he does not want to put his political rivals on trial.

The proposal is based on the depositions of Supreme Court deputy prosecutor Ioannis Angelis and former corruption prosecutor Eleni Raikou, as well as the testimonies of several of the politicians implicated in the original Novartis probe – including former conservative prime minister Antonis Samaras, European migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, former Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos, PASOK lawmaker Andreas Loverdos and Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras.

In his testimony Angelis claimed that an unnamed politician dubbed “Rasputin” played a pivotal role in influencing the course of the investigation into the alleged Novartis scandal.

He did not identify this Rasputin, who has, however, been named as Papangelopoulos by others including Samaras.

The proposal by the 30 lawmakers identifies Papangelopoulos as Rasputin.

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