NEWS

Focus on corruption

In the wake of the furor over illegal slot machines that appeared to shake Greece’s political system last week, when a journalist accused President Costis Stephanopoulos himself of renting a shop to someone who used it for illegal gambling, the government is planning a crackdown on corruption of all forms in public life. Prime Minister Costas Simitis, two days after vowing that no one would be allowed to «subvert institutions,» has called a meeting today of National Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis and Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis. He has instructed them to come up with specific proposals so that he will be able to announce measures at the end of the meeting. According to sources, Christodoulakis is expected to go beyond the issue of illegal gambling and encompass measures against financial crimes in general, in the belief that such crimes are detrimental to Greek society. Measures might range from ones on casinos to crimes such as the smuggling of cigarettes and fuel. The sources said that the government intends to impose strict regulations on shops that have slot machines, so as to reduce their number. Legislation aimed at cracking down on illegal gambling will also be brought into effect immediately. The interior minister is expected to announce measures on investigating civil servants for corruption. Public service employees will also face closer questioning over the origin of their assets. There will be quicker and harsher penalties for cases of corruption. The government yesterday maintained the line that the allegations against the president were part of a conspiracy aimed at undermining the political system. (If Stephanopoulos resigned, it was most likely that the current Parliament would not be able to elect a successor, causing early national elections.) Government spokesman Christos Protopappas commented, «The Greek people have eyes and can see, they can read and hear.» Michalis Neonakis, a member of the ruling PASOK party’s Executive Bureau, told Skai radio that some people believed that «the president, aside from his honesty, is also sufficiently sensitive (regarding his name) and so thought that they could lead the country into trouble.» Deputy Defense Minister Lucas Apostolidis said: «A climate is being created by interests which have economic or political aims.» No one has named the alleged perpetrators behind the accusations against Stephanopoulos.