PM’s press aide resigns

Giorgos Pantayias, who had been Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s shadow as his chief press adviser over the past seven years, was forced to resign yesterday after Kathimerini reported that he had intervened with the tax police in an effort to help one of Greece’s most prominent singers, Giorgos Dalaras, evade paying a tax fine of nearly 300,000 euros (100 million drachmas). When Simitis read the report in Kathimerini’s Greek edition, he asked for Pantayias’s resignation. This came just two days after a heated parliamentary debate in which Simitis had fought off opposition claims that his party fostered widespread corruption. Pantayias, who has expressed a keen desire to run for Parliament on PASOK’s ticket in the depressed second district of Piraeus in the next elections, is said to have been working busily at cultivating support for his prospective bid. Sources said that he had pressed Deputy Finance Minister Apostolos Fotiadis into issuing a circular limiting greatly the amount of taxes that Dalaras would have to pay. The singer issued a statement yesterday denying anything irregular. He said that he had had disputes with the Finance Ministry’s tax police for years and had campaigned to solve problems faced by singers who get a lot of their money up front in the form of advances and so have to pay heavier taxes. He said that he and Pantayias had been friends for a long time and would continue to be friends and that «there is something expedient behind the effort to connect Giorgos Pantayias to this issue.» Dalaras said he had a case outstanding with the tax police and was paying 18 million drachmas (nearly 50,000 euros) a year for five years. Pantayias’s letter of resignation – a move made to protect the prime minister – in which he said he had chosen to devote himself to running for Parliament, could cost him his candidacy. He jumped the gun before Simitis decided on his candidacy, he had already earned the enmity of PASOK MPs in Piraeus and was barely on speaking terms with the party secretary-general, Costas Laliotis. He also angered other PASOK members with his frequent calls for a radical renewal of the party. «The corruption that sticks to the Simitis government is leading the country to a dead end… The things we see these days confirm that the Simitis government is on its last legs,» claimed New Democracy party spokesman Theodoris Roussopoulos.