PM corruption warning

No mercy will be shown to corrupt politicians or civil servants, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis told his party yesterday as he attempts to pre-empt any fallout from the alleged blackmail of the Mevgal dairy firm. High-ranking government sources said the ruling conservatives are bracing themselves for more potentially damaging revelations from the Mevgal case, as well as separate claims about graft among state officials. Speaking to the New Democracy central committee in Athens yesterday, Karamanlis attempted to issue a clear message that his government would not tolerate corrupt practices. «We will be tough, rigorous and merciless with every incidence of corruption and illegality,» Karamanlis said. «The cost will be overwhelming for the guilty parties.» In his address, four weeks before local elections, Karamanlis accepted that corrupt practices, such as tax evasion, were deep-rooted and that it would take time to combat them. Government sources said that the prime minister and his aides are confident the Mevgal case will not have any lasting impact on the conservatives’ image. In fact, sources indicated, if no political figures are implicated and the revelations lead to the uncovering of price fixing in the milk market, the government may actually benefit from developments. The man at the center of the blackmail claims, Competition Commission Director Panayiotis Adamopoulos, was remanded in custody yesterday after being questioned by a magistrate. Adamopoulos denied colluding with two other men to ask for a 2.5-million-euro bribe from Mevgal so the company would not be fined by the watchdog. He claims that he asked wheat merchant Constantinos Constantinidis to act as a middleman to persuade Mevgal to provide information about the alleged milk cartel. Constantinidis will also be taken to Korydallos Prison today after refusing to appear before the magistrate over the weekend. He demanded that Mevgal President Petros Papadakis and the company’s former solicitor Kriton Metaxopoulos testify before the magistrate before he answers any questions. The third man implicated in the allegations, customs officer Panayiotis Anagnostopoulos, was remanded in custody on Friday.