Court: Laliotis a liar but not ‘vile’

An Athens court rejected yesterday as blatant lies allegations by ruling PASOK’s general secretary, Costas Laliotis, that former Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis was involved in financial wrongdoing, awarding the conservative statesman 294,000 euros in damages. But the court of first instance also ordered Mitsotakis, New Democracy’s honorary chairman, to pay Laliotis 59,000 euros in compensation for calling the former public works minister «the vilest thing I have ever seen in my political career.» The ruling said this was excessive. Just before Laliotis lost the public works portfolio – which he had held since 1993 – in October 2001 to take over the top PASOK job, he launched a bitter mudslinging campaign against Mitsotakis. The former PM, Laliotis maintained, had taken bribes from the consortium building the new Athens airport, and had access to suspect funds through an account in a Liberian offshore company named Mayo. Much of this was echoed by PM Costas Simitis. At the time, Laliotis had been under intense opposition pressure over alleged fraud and incompetence in his ministry’s handling of the multimillion-euro, EU-funded project to set up a land register in Greece. An investigation into Laliotis’s claims was shelved last July due to lack of evidence. PASOK’s secretary-general responded by threatening the prosecutor involved. Yesterday’s ruling said Laliotis «was aware of the mendacity of what he was spreading around.» The former minister issued a statement asserting he felt «fully justified (sic), politically and morally» by the decision. He added that he would appeal against it. Mitsotakis, who had sued for 293.4 million euros, said the decision constituted «a gain for public life.»