New turn in Pavlidis case to test Karamanlis

The dispute between former Aegean Minister Aristoteles Pavlidis and a shipowner, regarding the alleged payment of bribes for state subsidies to cover ferry routes, is expected to preoccupy Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis upon his return to the Maximos Mansion today following claims by an island mayor that the government has known about the alleged blackmail since early 2006. Tilos Mayor Tassos Aliferis has claimed that he sent the government a letter in January 2006 detailing the alleged wrongdoing. Also a Rhodes prosecutor sent Parliament a request for Pavlidis’s immunity to be lifted in October that year. Sources in the premier’s office claim that they only became aware of the issue last April when Pavlidis filed a suit against the owner of SAOS Ferries, Fotis Manousis, over claims that he paid 1 million euros annually in order to secure state subsidies to run ferry services to remote islands such as Tilos. Pavlidis has accused Manousis of pressuring him to provide one of his ships with a permit to serve one of these lines to remote islands, saying he was the victim of blackmail. According to leaked extracts from case documents, a former aide of Manousis’s had recorded the numbers of checks worth 650,000 euros which were allegedly intended as payments to Pavlidis. But these checks were never cashed. Questioned about the issue – and about other in-party tensions – during an interview published in yesterday’s Eleftheros Typos, Transport and Communications Minister Costis Hatzidakis remarked, «New Democracy is not the party of angels.» Pavlidis, for his part, has stressed that justice will vindicate him.