Graft accusations fly fast and furious
Endorsing claims by the embattled secretary-general of his ruling PASOK party, Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday accused opposition New Democracy of having set up an offshore company to handle suspect party funds. Responding in Parliament to a question by ND’s Manolis Kefaloyiannis concerning an alleged government coverup of offshore firms being used in public works and Defense Ministry contracts, Simitis reciprocated in kind. You should tell us why New Democracy once set up a Liberian company to receive party funding, the PM said. We would thus find out what you had wanted to avoid, and we would learn what you gained by this. PASOK’s new secretary-general Costas Laliotis – the public works minister from 1993 until last Tuesday’s reshuffle – last month repeated allegations first aired eight years ago that ND’s honorary chairman (and prime minister from 1990 to 1993), Constantine Mitsotakis, had channeled over $1 million in party contributions to a Liberia-based firm. Laliotis was under strong opposition pressure over alleged fraud and incompetence in his ministry’s handling of the multi-billion drachma project to create a national land register. Yesterday, ND parliamentray spokesman Procopis Pavlopoulos accused Simitis of mounting an organized mudslinging campaign. Kefaloyiannis said the PM admitted that he is hiding behind Mr. Laliotis. He must now take up his responsibilities, he said. The fact is that corruption among top public sector officials is facilitated by offshore companies, which are impossible to control due to a lack of the necessary legislation – which the Simitis government stubbornly refuses to adopt.