Privatization chief’s slip fuels new political row

The resignation of the head of the state privatization fund (TAIPED) on Sunday, demanded by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras after Stelios Stavridis was found to have flown on the private jet of a businessman involved in the purchase of Greek gaming firm OPAP, fueled a fresh political row on Monday.

It remained unclear who would replace Stavridis, who gave several television interviews in which he sought to defend his decision to ride in the Learjet of Dimitris Melissanidis, a major stakeholder in the Greek-Czech consortium Emma Delta, which bought 33 percent of OPAP. Stavridis said he felt bad for putting the government in a difficult position but insisted that he was “not a monk.” He said Melissanidis had dropped him off on the island of Cephalonia on his way to France.

Sources said Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was furious about the trip, with his aides describing Stavridis as “criminally naive.”

The left-wing opposition SYRIZA party quickly jumped into the fray, condemning TAIPED as “a hotbed of corruption” and saying Stavridis’s slip-up had highlighted “the dirty relationship between the government of the memorandum and business interests.” Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said SYRIZA opposed “changes crucial to the economy” and accused it of threatening investors.