NEWS

Muddy waters get muddier

Three weeks after the government was shaken by a disgruntled former ally’s claims of senior PASOK members being too close with a businessman with extensive dealings with the State, the opposition was hit yesterday by a torpedo fired by a former conservative stalwart. Many saw this is an effort to make it appear that politicians on all sides of the spectrum were compromised. Journalist Giorgos Kyrtsos, who has not forgiven New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis for having him sacked as editor of the conservative standard-bearer Eleftheros Typos and its Sunday edition on November 13 last year, claims in a forthcoming book that Karamanlis is lazy and that New Democracy is unduly influenced by tycoon Vardis Vardinoyiannis and other business and publishing interests. Excerpts of «The Secret Struggles of Big Interests» appeared in some daily newspapers yesterday. Kyrtsos also claimed, «There are at least 10 ND members of Parliament who constitute an extension of the Vardinoyiannis group’s press office.» Kyrtsos charged that New Democracy had ties with other business and publishing interests as well. The conservative party had no official comment on the book and sources said its members had been ordered not to make statements on the issue. But many party officials expressed anger and stressed the author’s own tangled ties with business interests. The government also avoided commenting. «Let the book be published first and we’ll see. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,» said spokesman Dimitris Gerou. Gerou, who is the Press Ministry’s general secretary, also had no comment on the latest salvo against the government by Avriani publisher Giorgos Kouris. The populist daily yesterday kept up its attack on senior PASOK official Michalis Neonakis, claiming that he made money on the Athens Stock Exchange when the majority of investors lost their shirts. «He appears to have grabbed about 1.5 to 2 billion drachmas (4.4 million euros to 5.9 million euros) from gambling on Sophocleous Street,» Avriani wrote without elaborating or presenting any evidence. As in previous attacks, when Kouris claimed Neonakis had made money on the bourse through shady dealings, Neonakis denied the claims and warned he would take legal action. «Let Mr Kouris have no illusions, he will pay the price and face the consequences of his wretchedness,» Neonakis said. Kouris has been charged twice by a prosecutor following claims that government spokesman Christos Protopappas’s 1996 election campaign was funded by businessman Athanassios Athanassoulis. The latter and Kouris are former business partners embroiled in a bitter struggle. ND MP and a former leader of the party, Miltiades Evert, revealed yesterday that a prosecutor’s probe into dealings on the Athens Stock Exchange just before the April 2000 elections had found suspicious trading by two accounts managed by the P&K investment company, of which Neonakis was a founding member. Number 11,986 allegedly bought 3.6 billion drachmas (10.5 million euros) of shares between March 21 and April 5, 2000, and sold 7.5 billion worth (21 million euros), making a profit of 428 million drachmas (1.2 million euros) on OTE shares alone. Account number 19,339, Evert said, bought 1.7 billion (5 million euros) and sold 8.1 billion (24 million euros) worth of shares from March 23 to April 7. «They had inside information,» he said and suggested he knew who was behind the accounts. Evert asked whether the government would still oppose a parliamentary inquiry into the issue.