ND intent on shaking off corruption claims

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is set to reiterate today his government’s determination to root out corruption, as Labor Minister Savvas Tsitouridis attempts to distance himself from the three men arrested in connection with the alleged blackmail of dairy firm Mevgal. Karamanlis is expected to tell the New Democracy central committee that he will not tolerate the presence in his government of any officials found to be involved in corrupt practices. He will issue the warning after the director of the Competition Commission, Panayiotis Adamopoulos, businessman Constantinos Constantinidis and customs official Panayiotis Anagnostopoulos were charged on Tuesday with blackmailing Mevgal by asking for a bribe so the firm would not be fined by the watchdog. Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros denied rumors that Tsitouridis was going to resign over the incident after allegations that he had been close to Adamopoulos and Anagnostopoulos. Tsitouridis actually sent a letter to the National Council for Radio and Television (ESR) highlighting «24 lies and untruths» that had been mentioned by the media regarding his relationship with the accused men. Tsitouridis denied that Anagnostopoulos had previously been one of his aides at the Agriculture Ministry. The minister challenged allegations that he intervened for the appointment of Adamopoulos at the Competition Commission. Anagnostopoulos was remanded in custody yesterday afternoon after testifying before a magistrate. Court sources said the customs official insisted he simply acted as a middleman to set up a meeting between Mevgal executives and Constantinidis, a wheat merchant. Constantinidis and Adamopoulos were given 24-hour extensions and are due to face a magistrate today. In his initial testimony, Constantinidis alleged that acting on behalf of Adamopoulos and Anagnastopoulos, he had asked for 2.48 million euros from Mevgal so the firm would not face a 25-million-euro fine. The businessman alleged that Adamopoulos would receive 1.5 million euros and the rest would go to Anagnostopoulos, who would give Constantinidis 10,000 euros.