Speaker hits back at graft accusations

As a prosecutor prepared to probe several former ministers implicated in a multi-billion-euro money-laundering network, Parliament Speaker Vangelis Meimarakis — the most prominent on the list of suspects — on Wednesday insisted on his innocence but said he would not resign from his post during such a critical phase for the government.

In a spirited speech before Parliament, Meimarakis condemned the claims being brought against him, by the newspaper Real News, as ?mafia-style, extortionate and roguish.? ?I will enter the arena,? the ex-minister declared, noting however that he would not resign while crucial talks on which the country?s solvency depends are under way. ?If I do not resign now, it?s because I don?t want to cause a problem for the government and destabilize the country,? Meimarakis said. ?I will do whatever it takes. I will remove my speaker?s suit,? he said.

He added that the political climate was being influenced by ?rumors and leaks? at a time that critical decisions are in the balance.

Meimarakis is one of more than 30 politicians and public figures who have come under the microscope following a probe by the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) into corruption in public life.

Prosecutor Popi Papandreou, who has taken over the probe from SDOE, is expected to focus on claims against Meimarakis, former Transport Minister Michalis Liapis and former Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis.

All three were implicated in a multi-billion-euro money-laundering network in a Real News report last Sunday. Before summoning the three politicians, Papandreou is expected to call two contractors — Iosif Livanos and Giorgos Zografakis — who allegedly accused the three ex-ministers of involvement in money laundering with rival contractor Yiannis Carouzos.

Livanos is expected to be the first on Papandreou?s list for testimony, followed by Zografakis.

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