NEWS

Ministers play down prosecutors claims of interference

The two prosecutors who were recently appointed to investigate crimes of a financial nature, including tax evasion, tendered their resignations on Wednesday, suggesting they could no longer tolerate political intervention and the pressure of a ?variety of organized interests.?

Soon after the content of the three-page letter submitted to the Supreme Court by Grigoris Peponis and Spyros Mouzakitis was made public, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Justice Minister Miltiadis Papaioannou issued a statement expressing surprise at the prosecutors? claims, suggesting it was an overreaction.

Peponis and Mouzakitis claimed ?politicoeconomic intervention? in their work, a lack of technical support and that their positions were being undermined by an imminent change to the law that would have passed their duties to a deputy prosecutor at the Supreme Court.

?We have never pursued lofty positions so we do not accept being prosecutors who are manipulated and take orders,? the two men said in their letter.

Peponis and Mouzakitis had recently launched investigations into a number of high-profile cases, including major tax evasion, the resignation of Finance Ministry official Diomidis Spinellis, banks? funding of Alter TV, allegations of benefits cheating and claims of fiddled statistics at the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).

Venizelos and Papaioannou responded in their statement that the prosecutors should come forward with any information that they have about interference in their work. ?People cannot take any more innuendos,? the ministers said.

They also expressed their puzzlement at why the two appeals court prosecutors objected to a draft law that would pass their duties to superior judicial officials. ?Do Supreme Court deputy prosecutors possess less zeal or is their independence so compromised that they are susceptible to covering up financial crimes?? wondered the ministers.

The response from Venizelos and Papaioannou failed to placate the opposition parties. New Democracy demanded the Supreme Court investigate the prosecutors? claims while the other parties demanded more information from the minister about the circumstances leading to Mouzakitis?s and Peponis?s resignations.