PASOK leader George Papandreou made his first appearance in the new year in Parliament yesterday and used the opportunity to make a public attack on the government in connection to the Zachopoulos affair but the conservatives chose to play down the matter. «This is a disgrace for our country, political life and democracy and it places New Democracy on a slippery slope, looking for accomplices that it can drag down as well,» said Papandreou, referring to an attempted suicide by the former Culture Ministry general secretary and resignation of the former Employment Minister Vassilis Magginas after revelations that he owned an illegally built home. Papandreou accused the government of becoming bogged down in a series of scandals that threatened to reach «epidemic» proportions. He also accused «certain carefully positioned judges» of serving the government. However, after days of commenting on the Zachopoulos affair, the government chose yesterday to stop airing its opinion on the subject. Government spokes-man Theodoros Roussopoulos failed to answer nine consecutive questions about the matter from journalists at a press briefing. Meanwhile, the investigation into possible financial wrongdoing by Zachopoulos was ramped up yesterday as a separate probe was ordered into possible questionable funding of non-government organizations while the 54-year-old controlled the purse strings at the ministry. Chief appeals court prosecutor Giorgos Koliocostas asked for a probe into Zachopoulos’s financial dealings since he took up his post at the ministry in March 2004. Magistrates continued yesterday the investigation into blackmail allegations by questioning one of the last people to see Zachopoulos before he tried to kill himself. Antonis Vassiloyiannakopoulos, a doctor at the Errikos Dynan Hospital, said that the ex-general secretary had confessed to being «pressured» when he checked into the hospital the day before he leaped from his balcony.