Long shadow over property watchdog

Rubini Stathea, a Finance Ministry employee who committed suicide last month, acted without legal grounds when she stopped the demolition of some illegally built villas, a ministry inspector has found. But the report by Ioannis Ayiosofitis, which was made public yesterday, found that the department in which Stathea was employed was plagued by problems that cast doubt over decisions it had taken over the past 42 years. Stathea was assistant director of the State Property Service for Eastern Attica, an area with much illegal construction. The service is responsible for protecting state property, including beaches. Beaches were delineated in 1960. Ayiosofitis called for an investigation into the service’s decisions since then and the apportioning of blame wherever it is found. Stathea, 53, was found dead at the foot of a cliff in Keratea in eastern Attica on Oct. 13. Her injuries indicating she had jumped. In previous days, she had been at the center of a political storm when it emerged that she had signed papers stopping the demolition of parts of four villas on the basis of a court decision from 1976 affecting one of them. Ayiosofitis found that «there were no legal grounds for Rubini Stathea to justify suspending the demolition protocols (except for the Damiri property) as this was not foreseen by the relevant regulations.» Another probe, by the Public Administration Electorate, prompted before Stathea’s suicide, found that in the case of the Damiri property also, her action was questionable, with inspectors disagreeing over it. Ayiosofitis’s probe will complement an investigation by public prosecutor Eleni Raiou which was launched after Stathea’s death. The inspector found that there were conflicting interpretations of the law between various departments and also within departments. Stathea, as a lawyer, was knowledgeable with regard to the law, and had herself written, «It is obvious that all illegally built construction is to be demolished.» Current regulations did not allow Stathea to suspend demolitions; nowhere in the papers she signed did she suggest she was doing this under pressure from anyone.