Disgraced bishop to stand trial

The suspended bishop of Attica, Panteleimon, was indicted yesterday to stand trial on criminal embezzlement charges, in yet another twist of the corruption and sex scandals bedeviling the Church of Greece. The Council of Appeals Court Judges ruled that Panteleimon should be tried for allegedly siphoning off funds in excess of 100 million drachmas (300,000 euros) from the collection boxes of the convent of Ossios Ephraim in Nea Makri, eastern Attica, in 1996 and 1997. The charges – which include embezzling state funds, as the money was subject to taxation – followed a formal complaint by the convent’s nuns. An inspection of the bishop’s finances has revealed that he holds over 3 million euros in bank accounts. The Church suspended Panteleimon on February 4 pending an investigation into claims he was involved in a trial-fixing ring consisting of judges, lawyers and churchmen, owned shares in offshore companies and had made lewd suggestions to a young man over the phone – after tapes of the conversation were made public. The bishop, who denies the charges, resisted intense pressure from the Church’s ruling body, the Holy Synod, to resign. The Synod has already forced one bishop to resign, and is probing another six for various alleged misdeeds. Among these is another Panteleimon, the bishop of Corinth, who has been indicted for embezzling over 300,000 euros from Church funds and charities, including a girls’ orphanage and an old-age home. Meanwhile, on the judicial side of the trial-fixing scandal, Supreme Court President Georgios Kappos yesterday defended his decision to transfer, as a preventive measure, to different positions 115 judges who had served for long periods in the same post. The move has caused protests among the judiciary.

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