Net closes round Vavilis

Three more churchmen were drawn yesterday into the burgeoning corruption and gay sex scandal bedeviling the Church of Greece, as police tightened their net around a fugitive drug dealer suspected of playing a pivotal part in the affair. Apostolos Vavilis, on the Interpol wanted list for a drugs conviction – but until recently apparently far from police priorities – has been linked with the head of the Church, Archbishop Christodoulos, who wrote him a letter of recommendation and allegedly sent him to Jerusalem to monitor the controversial election for a new patriarch in 2001. Yesterday, police sources said they expected to arrest Vavilis – who is understood to have supplied the force with security equipment while still officially on the run – within the next few days. This followed a weekend raid on a flat used by Vavilis in Holargos, northern Athens. Yesterday, police said the fugitive’s fingerprints had been found in the flat, which had been rented in the name of Archimandrite Nikodimos Farmakis, a cleric close to Kallinikos, Bishop of Piraeus. Farmakis has denied having rented the flat, but admitted to having visited Vavilis – who has reportedly expressed a desire to surrender – there. Detectives are now examining a clutch of partially destroyed documents from the flat, while sources said the hard disk had been removed from a computer kept on the premises. Over the past few days, officers have raided several flats believed to have served as the drug dealer’s hideouts. «The net is drawing ever tighter,» a source told Kathimerini. «He will find it increasingly hard to hide.» The Church’s ruling body, the Holy Synod, yesterday sought explanations from Kallinikos on Farmakis’s ties with Vavilis, and from Panteleimon, Bishop of Attica – who has been suspended pending an internal investigation into claims he tried to influence judges – after reports he owned an offshore company. The Synod also officially asked the government to allow top judges to sit on a new body to investigate allegations against bishops. Meanwhile, Christodoulos’s spokesman, Epifanios Iconomou, offered to resign yesterday after it emerged that he had paid a drug addict for tapes allegedly incriminating the bishop of Zakynthos, a prominent critic of the archbishop. His offer was not accepted.

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