Vatopedi Monastery land swap trial adjourned until March 23

The trial of 13 people over the alleged Vatopedi Monastery land swap scandal began on Monday but was adjourned until March 23.

The judged adjourned the trial so a new, larger courtroom could be assigned. Originally, 14 people were due to stand trial but one of the accused has died.

Those who will face charges of breach of trust and making false declarations include the monastery’s abbot, Ephraim, a monk, Arsenios, and the wife of former Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis, Katerina Peleki, who is a notary. Peleki’s father and brother are among those charged.

The Mount Athos monastery exchanged between 2006 and 2008 its ownership rights to Vistona Lake and its surrounding land with the titles for various properties that belonged to the state. However, it is alleged that taxpayers were shortchanged in the process.

The monastery claimed rights to the lake based on gift from a Byzantine ruler in 1080 but, according to the case file, this was wrongly determined as being ownership by state officials.

The state is seeking damages of 234 million euros.

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