Graft worries mount

Two of the three men allegedly involved in blackmailing the Mevgal dairy firm were taken to Korydallos Prison yesterday as pressure grew on the government to break up the alleged cartel said to be fixing milk prices in Greece. Panayiotis Adamopoulos, the suspended director of the Competition Commission, and wheat merchant Constantinos Constantinidis were jailed as they await trial on charges that they colluded to force Mevgal to pay them a 2.5-million-euro bribe. Adamopoulos denies the charges and insists he came into contact with Mevgal in an effort to break up a cartel in the milk industry. The government is concerned the Mevgal case may lead to further revelations of graft which would be more damaging for the ruling conservatives, especially if they involve the relatives of ministers and public officials, as is feared, government sources said. Ministers have been told to dig up cases of corruption during PASOK’s time in office so they can defend themselves against the Socialists. Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos rejected suggestions that New Democracy is politically responsible for appointing Adamopoulos. «There is political responsibility when you cover up, not when you uncover,» Roussopoulos said. Meanwhile, conservative officials are concerned that the government is being sidetracked by the blackmail allegations and is not doing enough to tackle the alleged fixing of the price of milk by a cartel of dairy companies. A liter of milk is sold in Greece for 0.85 to 1.47 euros, compared to an average price of 0.65 euros in Spain and 0.85 euros in Ireland. Greek producers are paid 0.35 euros a liter for their product by dairy companies. Meanwhile, Mevgal sought to distance itself from claims that it had been in touch with the three suspects to find a way to avoid a huge penalty, but executives decided instead to allege the firm was blackmailed. The claims were fueled by the decision of Mevgal’s lawyer, Kriton Metaxopoulos, to resign last week. The dairy firm yesterday referred the solicitor to the Athens Bar Association over interviews in which he appeared to suggest that Mevgal had come into contact with «a network» over the issue of its looming penalty.