Judicial probe launched into reports on gov’t aide

Judicial probe launched into reports on gov’t aide

Supreme Court prosecutor Xeni Dimitriou Friday ordered an investigation into reports that a close associate of a government minister had tried to intervene so that a company owned by disgraced businessman Lavrentis Lavrentiadis could get out of paying more than 120 million euros in debts to the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA).

The allegations pertain to debts to the state-owned company run up by Hellenic Fertilizers (ELFE), which is controlled by Lavrentiadis. The businessman, who is on trial for embezzlement over the failed Proton Bank, now also stands accused of complicity in bank fraud over the company’s unpaid debts to Alpha Bank.

According to the media reports that prompted the investigation, Manolis Petsitis, a close associate of Digital Policy Minister Nikos Pappas with alleged links to the office of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, appears to have had a shadowy role in the affair.

Theodoros Kitsakos, a former DEPA CEO who faces charges over the ELFE case, has said that Petsitis appeared at DEPA’s offices in 2015 “claiming to represent the prime minister’s office” and asking for the gas company to come to some kind of an arrangement for writing off ELFE’s debt.

The former DEPA executive, who has been accused of accepting bribes to this end, claims that Petsitis had been working for ELFE at the same time and was receiving a “very satisfactory salary.”

DEPA, which claims that, for years, checks paid to cover ELFE’s gas bills kept bouncing, has already filed suits against Lavrentiadis and 11 of his associates for fraud and racketeering.

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