Reports of minister taping call with BoG chief fuel toxic climate


Reports on Tuesday that Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis taped a conversation with Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras further poisoned the political atmosphere amid increasing speculation about a snap election. 

Responding to the reports, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s office essentially backed Polakis while also taking a dig at Stournaras, with whom ties have long been strained.

The PM’s office said it had always respected the independence of the central bank, “even when its governor has expressed different views on crucial issues of economic policy. 

But the same respect for independence and the principle of political neutrality must be exhibited in practice by all sides.” 

Stournaras’s office also issued a statement, decrying Polakis’s actions as “unheard of.” 

“It is historically unprecedented by European standards for a government minister to record a private telephone conversation and to immediately leak, selectively, falsified parts of such a conversation to a media outlet, friendly to the government,” Stournaras said, referring to Documento, the publication which broke the story.

Polakis denied taping the conversation but confirmed its content. The conversation related to Stournaras’s decision to question Attica Bank’s management over a decision to grant Polakis 100,000 euros in personal loans secured against a property with a 300,000-euro mortgage. 

An Athens prosecutor Tuesday launched an investigation to determine whether Polakis taped the conversation without Stournaras’s permission and leaked it.

If evidence is found against him, Parliament will be called upon to decide whether to lift his immunity as an MP and he could face felony charges. This would put the government in a difficult position in the countdown to elections, which are scheduled for October but expected to happen sooner.

The incident is the second toxic political exchange this week after former foreign minister Nikos Kotzias sued former defense minister Panos Kammenos for slander and threats. 

New Democracy lashed out at the government, accusing it of resorting to “underworld methods” and called on the judiciary to intervene.

It also cited the clash between Kotzias and Kammenos as another example of the country’s decaying political life.