In last appearance, Zorbas blasts gov’t

The head of the committee formed to combat money laundering, Giorgos Zorbas, bowed out at a news conference yesterday with parting shots aimed at Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis and the country’s top prosecutor Giorgos Sanidas. Zorbas, a former prosecutor, has been engaged in a verbal battle with Alogoskoufis for the last three weeks after the minister decided to scrap the committee and replace it with another one that he could more closely control. Zorbas accused Alogoskoufis of making a series of mistakes in a speech he made to Parliament detailing why he decided to ditch the existing committee. The ex-prosecutor denied the minister’s accusations that his committee had failed to do its job properly and was not cooperating well with foreign authorities. Zorbas said that the European Union’s body for combating financial crime had, in fact, been very complementary about the committee’s work. Zorbas also claimed that he had arranged with British authorities for them to supply details of the accounts of Giorgos Papamarkakis, the owner of London investment banking firm North Asset Management, which was implicated in last year’s bond scandal. But, according to Zorbas, despite his requests, Greek authorities never took the appropriate steps to retrieve the information. He pointed to Supreme Court prosecutor Giorgos Sanidas as an obstacle to completing his probe. Zorbas clashed with the government last year following an investigation into the purchase of a 280-million-euro government bond by four pension funds at inflated prices. The ex-prosecutor said that he had also sent a letter to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis setting out the work he had done as head of the committee.