NEWS

Blackmail suspect sought

Police are looking for a 35-year-old former Culture Ministry employee in connection to the attempted suicide of the ministry’s ex-general secretary, Christos Zachopoulos, who remained in critical condition in the hospital yesterday after jumping from the balcony of his fourth-floor apartment. High-ranking government sources insisted yesterday that they believe that a personal matter led to the incident and that there are no political or financial implications. Claims that a woman had approached TV stations over the last few days with a videotape that could have damaged Zachopoulos prompted officers yesterday to begin searching for her on suspicion that she had been trying to blackmail the politician, who was a close aide of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. Sources said that she worked with Zachopoulos at the Culture Ministry, where she was employed as a contract worker. The government believes that if the videotape the unnamed woman is alleged to have forwarded to the TV stations had contained any evidence of financial irregularities or corruption, it would have been aired by now. As a result, the conservatives are confident that the footage refers to something of a personal or intimate nature, in which context the case would be much less damaging for the prime minister. Government sources denied yesterday that Zachopoulos had resigned on Wednesday at the behest of the prime minister. They said that Karamanlis, who has been closely associated with Zachopoulos for the last 10 years, had actually tried to talk the former general secretary out of quitting his post. Zachopoulos’s wife and son have already given statements to police, who are also examining the official’s mobile phone and computer records as well as handwritten notes that they found on his desk at home. Doctors said that they will not be able to say for sure if Zachopoulos is out of danger until next week. He suffered severe injuries, including broken legs and ribs, and has been heavily sedated. He is undergoing continuous blood transfusions to replace the blood that is being lost from his wounds.