OEK chiefquits amidbribe claims

There were calls from the government yesterday for prosecutors to investigate corruption allegations after yet another government appointee, the head of the Workers’ Housing Organization (OEK), resigned on Saturday after accusations were published in a newspaper. Angelos Economopoulos, the OEK president, tendered his resignation to Labor Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos on Saturday after allegations in Paron newspaper that the housing official had demanded a bribe in return for paying a contractor for work he had carried out for the organization. Initial speculation suggested that Economopoulos had suddenly stepped down on Saturday because he had been pressured into delaying the official handing over of 210 homes to low-income families in Ioannina by New Democracy officials because the conservative party was holding its central committee meeting in Athens on the same day. However, it soon emerged that the newspaper had published a letter from businessman Prodromos Emfietzoglou, which he claims to have sent to the prime minister as well. He alleged in the letter that Economopoulos had asked for a kickback to approve payment to Emfietzoglou’s company. Panayiotopoulos accepted the resignation and yesterday called for a prosecutor to «immediately» investigate the allegations «so that what really happened can be proved and any possible responsibility can be laid where there are actual guilty parties.» Econompoulos’s resignation is an unwelcome development for the ruling conservatives at a time when Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has been trying to emphasize the government’s commitment to fighting corruption. It also comes just over a week after Yiannis Paleokrassas resigned as head of the Public Power Corporation, citing corruption at Greece’s electricity giant. Economopoulos is the 36th government appointee to resign or be sacked in the 21 months New Democracy has been in power. The episode is also an embarrassment for Panayiotopoulos, who is thought to have picked Economopoulos for the position of OEK president.