Claim of new land scandal hits Socialists

Deputy Development Minister Dimitris Georgakopoulos was under pressure yesterday after being accused in Parliament of leaning on local authorities to accept the building of a resort within a protected area. It is the second time in 10 days that a government official has been in the spotlight for attempting to develop land on which building is forbidden. The Kaiafas Lake, in Ileia prefecture in the western Peloponnese – Georgakopoulos’s constituency – has been a protected area and a part of the Natura 2000 European network of natural habitats. The Development Ministry aimed at building a hotel resort and a golf course nearby, on land currently held by Hellenic Tourism Properties (ETA), a subsidiary of Greece’s National Tourism Organization (GNTO). The case is not as clear-cut as the one that broke out last week, when former Deputy Economy Minister Christos Pachtas tabled an amendment allowing a construction firm, and property developer, to build a resort on forestland. In the Kaiafas case, nonetheless, it is clear that Georgakopoulos put pressure on the Ileia prefecture land registry office to provide a statement saying the Kaiafas Lake is not a protected area and used some disputed facts – for example, that the lake’s waters do not flow into the sea – to back his view. The last fax sent to the head of the registry office, Nikos Papavassiliou, was on January 21. Georgakopoulos used the ETA letterhead to send at least one of the faxes, something ETA said they were unaware of. Papavassiliou refused to accept Georgakopoulos’s argument. What’s more, as a member of the Left Coalition party, he passed on the faxes to Left Coalition leader Nikos Constantopoulos, who is himself from Ileia. Constantopoulos brought the case to the attention of Parliament late on Thursday. Yesterday, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos denied that the government had any intention of declaring Kaiafas Lake a non-protected zone, adding he had no knowledge of Georgakopoulos’s actions. Constantopoulos demanded that Tsochadzopoulos investigate his deputy’s conduct.

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