NEWS

Transfer scandal ousts Vougias

Four days after the revelation that his student daughter had secured a preferential transfer from a provincial university to her hometown of Thessaloniki, Spyros Vougias yesterday resigned as press spokesman for the main opposition party, PASOK. The Vougias affair proved a godsend to the ruling New Democracy party. It came 24 hours after Wednesday’s resignation of Agriculture Minister Savvas Tsitouridis, whose son had secured a transfer from Crete to a prestigious Athens university after claiming he faced a security risk ahead of the August Olympics. Vougias, 52, a Thessaloniki University assistant professor of transportation and a close aide of PASOK leader George Papandreou, insisted that there was no question of nepotism or lawbreaking in his daughter’s transfer, which happened two years ago when he was deputy transport minister. Initially, Vougias claimed the transfer was a standard perk for Thessaloniki University academic and administrative staff, but he was later only able to demonstrate that it had been for «special social reasons.» Yesterday, Vougias said he was resigning to shield PASOK, and to prevent the conservatives from diverting public attention from more serious issues. Papandreou said he «understands the personal and political reasons» that led to Vougias’s resignation – which ND had demanded last week. He also pledged to find the former deputy minister a new party job. Commenting on the resignation, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said, «Better late than never.» Vougias will be replaced by Nikos Athanassakis, a former deputy government spokesman. Prosecutors yesterday ordered investigations into student transfers to Athens and Thessaloniki universities since 2000.