Storm over aide’s resignation

The Defense Ministry yesterday rejected as «slanderous» allegations by a former ministerial aide that Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou acted against the country’s interests in favoring «ruthless business interests» and sanctioned illegal acts by his close associates. A ministry statement said the claims by Professor Giorgos Sotirellis, who resigned on Monday from the chair of the ministry’s Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA) charging that Papantoniou’s «henchmen» repeatedly tried to interfere with his work, were «untrue and slanderous.» The ministry said this applied in particular to Sotirellis’s allegation that Papantoniou’s decision not to keep on Syros Koskovolis as chairman of the state EBO-PYRKAL armaments and munitions industry «not only flew against any notion of meritocracy and public interest but also offered support… to huge and ruthless business interests.» The ministry said Papantoniou «is unwavering in his defense of the public interest.» Opposition New Democracy cried foul. «Greeks must know who is getting rich, at their expense, through murky procedures,» party spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said. Synaspismos Left Coalition called for the matter to be discussed by Parliament’s Defense Committee. In his resignation letter to the minister, Sotirellis claimed that soon after he assumed his IDA duties «people very close» to Papantoniou «reverted to their murky practices and client relations… and tried to involve the institute in matters outside its own scope, showing minimal respect for the law… In October, I became certain that all this was carried out in your knowledge.» Koskovolis told SKAI radio yesterday that the ministry’s arms procurements system is corrupt, leading to huge profits for middlemen.