Parliament lifts immunity

Parliament took the rare step yesterday of voting overwhelmingly in favor of lifting the immunity from prosecution of an MP who has been linked to the alleged bribing of a judge while also deciding to allow three more deputies to face unrelated charges. It is not often that Parliament lifts an MP’s immunity, but during yesterday’s plenary session, 224 deputies in the 300-seat house voted in favor of allowing independent MP for Piraeus Petros Mandouvalos to face charges of bribery and money laundering. The former New Democracy MP made an emotional plea to the house to lift his immunity so he could prove his innocence in court. Mandouvalos, a lawyer by profession, claimed he had been through an «inhuman process.» Investigating judges charged Mandouvalos last month after allegations that another lawyer working at the MP’s Piraeus legal office, Christos Hadzipanayiotou, had made a 7-million-drachma (20,500-euro) payment to Court of First Instance President Evangelos Kalousis in November 2000. Kalousis has been charged with sexual exploitation, bribery and money laundering and is currently awaiting trial. Mandouvalos resigned from the ruling conservative party in October after claims about his associate’s alleged payment were made public on television. Yesterday’s decision by Parliament has set the clock ticking for the judges because the bribery charges against Mandouvalos have a five-year statute of limitations. The MP will have to be tried in the next 12 days or the charges will be struck from the record. «I ask that everything progress smoothly and that justice is served swiftly so that I am not trapped,» Mandouvalos told Parliament. Completing the legal process and holding the trial within the next 12 days looks like a tall order for the justice system. Parliament also voted in favor of allowing PASOK MP Markos Bolaris to face charges related to a car accident and New Democracy Deputy Costas Bandouvas to be charged in relation to an allegedly illegal fuel deposit. PASOK MP Thanassis Papageorgiou also had his immunity lifted and will be charged with breach of faith relating to several loans he approved when he was deputy governor of ATE Bank.