High aims, low blows

As a disgruntled pro-PASOK publisher kept up his attack on the government and ruling party, Prime Minister Costas Simitis declared yesterday that he preferred to concentrate on Greece’s EU presidency rather than take direct measures to deal with the climate of scandal. Simitis briefed President Costis Stephanopoulos on domestic and international issues and on his upcoming visit to seven European countries that will join the EU next year. «Through the (EU) presidency, Greece is promoted. That is why the presidency should be our priority,» Simitis told reporters. «Some might want to change the agenda, to make other issues our country’s priorities – those of scandalmongering and petty politics. But the mandate we have been given by the Greek people is to promote our country and it is this mandate that we will carry out,» he said. The populist Avriani newspaper, owned by Giorgos Kouris, yesterday kept up its attack on senior PASOK officials, claiming that Michalis Neonakis, a member of the party’s powerful executive bureau and close aide of Simitis, had invested 300 million drachmas (880,410 euros) in the P&K investment company in 1999 – a time when the Athens Stock Exchange hit record highs before a steep drop. The implication was that whereas most investors had lost their shirts, Neonakis (and others whom Kouris has accused) made money. Neonakis denied the innuendo and said he would take legal action against Kouris. He said his investment was not secret and was included in the company’s prospectus when it was listed on the ASE. He said the money came from cashing in shares. «In early May 2002, I sold all my shares in the said company, losing about 70 percent of the initial share capital I had invested. Consequently, not only did I not profit from this participation, as Mr Kouris so falsely claims, but on the contrary, I suffered most significant losses. Furthermore, I have suffered most significant losses from my participation in the stock exchange since 1999,» Neonakis said. Kouris also accuses PASOK officials of being cozy with a former business partner of his, Athanassios Athanassoulis, with whom he has had a falling out. Yesterday, prosecutor Dimitris Asprogerakas charged Kouris with slander for claiming government spokesman Christos Protopappas was building a «palace worth 1 billion drachmas (3 million euros)» and demanding to know where the money came from.

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