Sacked privatization agency chief defends flight in private jet

Stelios Stavridis, the outgoing chairman of the Greek privatization agency who was dismissed on Sunday amid reports that he flew on the private plane of a member of the consortium involved in the purchase of gaming firm OPAP, defended his decision in comments to Skai television on Monday and spoke of “hypocrisy” in society that led to his dismissal.

“I am not a monk and I won’t hide,” Stavridis said. He said he regretted putting the government in a difficult position but did not regret his decision to accept an offer by businessman Dimitris Melissanidis to ride in the latter’s private jet. “I don’t regret it at all, quite the opposite in fact,” he said, adding that “everything I do is with absolute transparency and is practical.” “I want to be transparent and not be ashamed of what I do,” he said.

Stavridis added that Melissanidis had held a hostile stance during negotiations for the sale of OPAP and that the latter’s offer to give him a ride on his jet marked a change of position. “He offered to accommodate me after the signing which was ceremonial in nature.”

Stavridis added that it was not he but Yannis Emiris, TAIPED’s managing director who had led the negotiations on the terms of the OPAP contract.

He said he understood that his decision to travel on Melissanidis’ jet “may raise some questions in the public mind” but said “public opinion has a tendency to focus on appearances” rather than the essence. Stavridis said that Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, who asked for his resignation on Sunday, had faced “the pressure of an entire society.”

It appeared on Monday that Emiris would remain in the same post while it remained unclear who would take over at the head of the privatization agency.