NEWS

In Brief

TAX DEBTS

Ministry in bid to attract 6 billion euros in arrears The Finance Ministry is planning a new beneficial adjustment in a bid to bring in some of the outstanding debts by tax payers, which are estimated at a staggering 6 billion euros, or 2 trillion drachmas, sources said. This is expected to provide a second chance to taxpayers who had subscribed to a previous program but failed to continue paying their debts in three consecutive installments. The total of outstanding debts is estimated at 9 billion euros, three of which concern debts to public utility companies or are owed by individuals who are unable to pay them. AEGEAN Inspectors to oversee construction, protect environment on islands A new inspectorate of 100 people, insluding 23 architects, environmentalists and technical experts has been set up by the Aegean Ministry to crack down on illegal construction and to protect the character of traditional settlements and notably beautiful parts of the Aegean, Minister Nikos Sifounakis said yesterday. The inspectors have been trained over the last two months and will have a say in the design of buildings and will also be able to carry out on-site inspections to see that rules are being followed. They will also draw up a record of all the buildings that have been registered for preservation and other worthy buildings on the islands, noting the state of repair in which they are and recommending ways to protect them. Kindness rewarded Escaped prisoner gives up police Two police officers have been arrested and charged with allowing a prisoner to escape, after the fugitive returned to the police station from which he had been released and told the astonished policemen there that he wanted to be locked up again. On Sunday morning, an off-duty officer visited the Aghios Panteleimonas Police Station in Athens where he works and met with a local bar owner who had been arrested after being sentenced in absentia to 19 months in prison for operating a business without a license. The officer and prisoner left without the duty officer doing anything to stop them. But the prisoner was back at 3 p.m., telling the new duty officer his tale. Neither the officers nor the prisoner were named. Sales Winter sales will run from January 13 to February 28, Deputy Development Minister Christos Theodorou said yesterday. School strike Schools will remain closed on Thursday as the primary school teachers’ federation has joined secondary school teachers in a strike for more pay and higher pensions. The strike will coincide with a 24-hour strike being held by the civil servants’ federation ADEDY in protest at the 2003 budget proposal. Tree-lighting The estimated 100,000 lights on the artificial Christmas tree on Syntagma Square, once billed as the tallest of its kind in Europe, will be switched on at 8 p.m. today by outgoing Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos. The city council is also organizing a pop concert, but it is unclear whether this will affect traffic in central Athens. Icon in town Hundreds of Orthodox Christians flocked to Athens Cathedral where a reportedly miracle-working icon from Jerusalem arrived yesterday after a 45-day stay in Thessaloniki, where it was visited by an estimated 2.5 million pilgrims from Greece and other Balkan countries. The icon of the Virgin of Jerusalem, which is accompanied by a piece of wood traditionally associated with the cross of Jesus Christ, will remain in Athens for ten days. Sailor-bashing Some 15 sailors on shore leave from the USS George Washington aircraft carrier were injured in the Cretan town of Hania over the weekend during fights with locals who object to a NATO base in the area and – according to local reports – illegal immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan who were irate at Washington’s policy regarding their countries. Many of the US sailors were reportedly drunk. The George Washington is currently on a visit to the Souda Bay base.