Ex-ministers to escape Vatopedi prosecution

Three former ministers in previous New Democracy governments look set to avoid prosecution over their alleged role in the Vatopedi Monastery land-swap scandal according to a recommendation to the Supreme Court that looks set to bring an end to the long-running speculation over the affair.

Sources told Kathimerini on Friday that Supreme Court deputy prosecutor Miltiadis Andreiotelis is to recommend to a special council of judges ruling on whether the ministers should face action that the politicians cannot be tried because of the statute of limitations that applies to any offenses they have committed.

The Greek Constitution stipulates that current or ex-ministers cannot be prosecuted if more than two parliaments have sat since the alleged crime was committed.

That is why Andreiotelis appears to be recommending to judges that former Deputy Economy and Finance Minister Petros Doukas, former Agriculture Minister Evangelos Basiakos and his deputy Alexandros Kontos should not be brought to trial. All three have been accused of breach of faith while holding a public post, although they deny the charges. The ex-ministers argue that they were simply following the recommendations of various public servants and state bodies that gave the green light to the exchange of public property for land belonging to the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos. It is alleged that the state lost tens of millions of euros in the deal because the real estate it traded had a higher value. However, several evaluations by property experts have yet to confirm this.

According to sources, Andreiotelis is set to recommend to judges that the statute of limitations does not mean other civil servants implicated in the case are immune from prosecution.

The judicial council, convened after Parliament voted to refer the case following a probe by MPs, is due to issue its verdict in less than a month. If it follows the prosecutor?s recommendation, as is likely, then it would bring to an end almost three years of speculation about whether any PASOK or New Democracy politicians would be found guilty of wrongdoing.

However, ND sources said that such a verdict would lead to the conservatives attacking PASOK for forcing the judiciary to make the final ruling when the constitution makes it clear that three ministers could not face prosecution. The conservatives believe that Parliament, therefore, should not have referred the case to the judges.