Probe gets green light

Parliament voted early yesterday resoundingly in favor of launching a probe into purchases worth more than 700 million euros made by the military under the stewardship of two former PASOK defense ministers. The proposal, put forward by the ruling New Democracy party, for Parliament to investigate the purchase of US radar systems and Russian missiles by Akis Tsochadzopoulos and Yiannos Papantoniou was given the green light after 184 MPs voted for it and 114 voted against. PASOK had put forward its own proposal to extend the investigation to the government’s dealings in the last seven months, but it only received support from 134 MPs, with 164 voting against. Twenty MPs from the Communist and Synaspismos Left Coalition parties voted in favor of both proposals. The result means a 24-member parliamentary committee will be set up to further investigate the cases concerned. The committee’s findings are due within two months and could result in the former Socialist ministers having their immunity revoked and standing trial. PASOK immediately counterattacked. Addressing his MPs, opposition leader George Papandreou said the government was being overzealous in its approach to the probe. «New Democracy’s policy is in danger of turning Parliament into a permanent investigative committee and the political life of our country into an endless judicial madhouse,» said Papandreou. He also attacked the government’s record in power, particularly with reference to the audit of public accounts which led to deficit revisions. «The audit parody has become a tragedy for the Greek economy and Greek citizens,» said Papandreou. Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos responded by labeling Papandreou’s tirade «general» and «vague.» Meanwhile, the Athens chief prosecutor yesterday ordered a preliminary investigation into the purchase of four hovercraft in 2000 and a contract to buy 20 NH-90 helicopters in 2003. Combined, the deals were worth more than 750 million euros. Files on these cases were sent to the prosecutor on September 30 by the head of economic planning at the Defense Ministry, Giorgos Zorbas. The report claims procurement rules were broken, the hovercraft have never been used and the helicopters were overpriced. Zorbas has been accused by PASOK of stirring up unnecessary trouble.