NEWS

A lid on can of worms?

Two business partners whose falling out embroiled members of the government in allegations of scandal appeared to be reaching a compromise yesterday, perhaps putting an end to the source of friction. But one of the men, newspaper publisher Giorgos Kouris, warned yesterday that he would keep up his attack on the government irrespective of whether a deal was reached. Kouris’s populist Avriani daily has been publishing daily attacks on Altec computer firm owner Athanassios Athanassoulis over the past few months in a dispute over control of the Alter television station. On April 15, Vangelis Malesios was forced to resign as deputy public order minister when Avriani reported, correctly, that he was living rent-free in an apartment owned by Athanassoulis, whom Malesios described as an old friend. Since then, Kouris has claimed that government spokesman Christos Protopappas’s 1996 election campaign was funded by Athanassoulis and that senior PASOK officials Stefanos Manikas and Michalis Neonakis had made fortunes on the stock exchange at a time when most investors lost their shirts. Yesterday Avriani claimed that a police officer who had served in PM Costas Simitis’s security detail in 1999 had built a villa, claiming that the officer «must have eavesdropped on the gang of PASOK officials who took part in the fraud and stock bubbles and got rich with them.» Sources said yesterday that Athanassoulis was looking for a compromise with Kouris. Kouris would reportedly get 42 percent of Alter and its management, from the 32.4 percent he now holds, and Athanassoulis would get 39 percent, from his current 45.1 percent. The Marfin investment company will hold 5 percent. Alter TV currently has a market capitalization of 11 million euros. Government officials believe that the attempted compromise would help ease the political climate. At a news conference yesterday, however, Kouris maintained that he would continue working for «PASOK’s catharsis» but added that he would keep some «aces» up his sleeve. He claimed that his business dispute «has no relation to the political and economic scandals which turned up in the investigation which ensued.» It was not clear whether major tax infringements discovered recently at Kouris’s and Athanassoulis’s companies would be affected by the reported deal.