Clash over MPs’ trades

The clash between the government and the opposition New Democracy party has shifted to the issue of transactions on the Athens Stock Exchange during the boom-and-bust years of 1998-2000, following Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s announcement on Wednesday that trading by all PASOK MPs in that period would be investigated. ND leader Costas Karamanlis did not answer directly to Simitis’s challenge to have his own party’s MPs do the same, but he demanded yesterday that the scrutiny of trading by all MPs, state officials and bankers be made obligatory by a special law, and he cast doubt on whether Capital Market Commission Chairman Stavros Thomadakis was objective enough to carry out such an investigation. A public prosecutor has asked for a probe to be conducted into whether the Capital Market Commission was guilty of dereliction of duty in not suspending the trading of companies that were under investigation regarding allegations of stock manipulation. The government charged that New Democracy was interfering in the work of the judiciary. «The question that is raised directly is: Why does Mr Karamanlis attack the stock exchange every time that he sees the economic climate is positive? The answer is obvious,» government spokesman Christos Protopappas said. He also accused Karamanlis of «trying to announce in advance, in a strange and unacceptable way, judicial decisions.» He added, «It is a dangerous outlook and it casts mud on institutions and people and we condemn it.» ND spokesman Theodoris Roussopoulos shot back: «The prime minister and the government, through their spokesman, continue to identify the stock exchange with Mr Thomadakis and Mr Thomadakis with the government… Mr Thomadakis is not the stock exchange. He is one of those responsible for the crime committed on the stock exchange. Rudimentary government interest in the stock exchange would demand his immediate removal.» Sources said the government would not accept the demand for a law mandating scrutiny of trading accounts as it did not want to make it appear that accounts could be opened without criminal charges having been filed against their owners. PASOK is expected to insist that ND should have its MPs open their trading accounts voluntarily.

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