Vatopedi abbot, another 13 indicted, in controversial land swap

Ephraim, the former abbot of the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos, is to stand trial in connection with a controversial land swap between the Greek government and the monastery, along with another 13 suspects, a court decided on Monday.

A council of appeals court judges ruled that the 14, who include the monastery’s former treasurer Arsenios and the notary Katerina Peleki – wife of former conservative minister Giorgos Voulgarakis – should face charges of breach of faith and making false statements in connection to the property exchange.

The land swap allegedly led to Vatopedi obtaining prime real estate in return for property of a lesser value, to the detriment of taxpayers.

Ephraim is accused of meeting politicians and public officials between 2001 and 2008 and talking them into carrying out the swap.

At least four ministers of the conservative New Democracy party were implicated in the scandal, which is widely regarded as having contributed to the demise of the goverment of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in 2009, but none were brought to trial.

The judges decided that another 18 people who had been implicated in the case, including the head of former Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s office, Yiannis Angelou, will not have to stand trial as they deemed that inadequate evidence had come to light linking them to the exchange.

The Vatopedi land swap is estimated to have cost the state around 100 million euros.

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