Nod to bond wrongdoing

The government admitted yesterday that pension funds may have been excessively charged when placing money in investment bonds, as the capital market watchdog shut down another brokerage for its alleged involvement in the issue. It was the first time the conservative government admitted any wrongdoing by the state pension funds which have been facing accusations from ministers and opposition parties of the mishandling of funds. «It has been noted that there have been cases of excessive pricing during the purchase of bonds. But this is being investigated,» said alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros. Evidence of a civil servants’ secondary fund having overpaid about 5 million euros for a government bond sparked talk of inexperienced and corrupt officials managing pension assets last month. The claims have also put an increasing amount of pressure on Labor Minister Savvas Tsitouridis to step down but he appears to be still enjoying the backing of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. «The issue has been answered. I have nothing new to add,» said Antonaros in response to questions about Tsitouridis’s future at the ministry. Tsitouridis is scheduled to face an economic committee in Parliament tomorrow over the bond purchases along with Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis and the heads of 13 pension funds. Meanwhile, the Capital Market Commission ordered a partial shutdown of Artion Securities after finding evidence that it was involved in large bond transactions with pension funds. Artion allegedly sold bonds to funds between March 2003 and January 2005 at prices above those shown on the bond secondary market. Capital market authorities have already revoked the license of the Acropolis brokerage which was found to have sold the controversial bond to the civil servants’ fund.

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