Questions over MP charges

MPs expressed their concern yesterday over the charges of bribery and money laundering being brought against independent deputy Petros Mandouvalos, after a parliamentary ethics committee agreed to let Parliament decide whether to lift the politician’s immunity from prosecution. PASOK MP Andreas Loverdos said he thought judicial authorities had been behaving «suspiciously» in pressing charges against Mandouvalos and investigating his bank accounts before Parliament had decided to lift his immunity. Mandouvalos had been a New Democracy MP for Piraeus until late October, when he resigned from the party after allegations of corruption were made by a television program. It was alleged that an associate of the MP at the legal office he runs had paid some 7 million drachmas (20,500 euros) into the bank account of judge Evangelos Kalousis. Kalousis has been charged with sexual exploitation, bribery and money laundering. Investigating judges moved quickly to bring charges against Mandouvalos because the alleged payment was made in November and there is a five-year statute of limitations for bribery. However, Loverdos suggested the judges had acted too zealously and said their actions had been «unconstitutional» because they had not respected the MP’s immunity. His views were supported by left-wing MPs but government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said the proper procedures had been followed. The ethics committee decided yesterday to allow Parliament to vote on whether to allow Mandouvalos to face prosecution but some members said that they only agreed to the move because the MP himself wants his immunity lifted. It is very rare for Parliament to allow MPs to be prosecuted. Mandouvalos insists he is innocent and wants to prove this in court. «If you do not lift my immunity, you are sentencing me to time behind bars,» the deputy said. «I want to be put on trial so that I can remove every speck of dust that is on me.» No date has been set for Parliament to vote to lift his immunity. Mandouvalos asked that the ballot take place as soon as possible.

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