Verdict ‘returns’ Vistonida to state

A ruling issued by a court in Rhodope yesterday officially recognized Lake Vistonida, in northern Greece, and the land around it, as public property four years after the state and the Vatopedi Monastery reached an out-of-court settlement regarding rights to the land. Yesterday’s ruling means that the monastery will only retain the rights to a 172-hectare islet in the lake, not the 2,700 hectares of coastal land that it had claimed. The dispute over the ownership of the lake and its environs, one the most controversial aspects of the Vatopedi property scandal, began four years ago. A court in Rhodope heard the case at the time but never issued a decision because the state waived its rights. The state is then alleged to have reached a settlement out of court with the monastery, offering it public property, including a building in the Olympic Village in Attica whose value far exceeded that of the land the state received in return. The president of the Supreme Court, Yiannis Papanikolaou, last month noted that this agreement had not been legal, as the judges had already agreed in a two-to-one vote that ownership should be awarded to the state. Meanwhile in a related development yesterday, the head of a state legal council that advises on property issues came under fire while testifying before a parliamentary committee probing the Vatopedi scandal. Deputies from ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK criticized Yiannis Dionysopoulos for appointing the same officials in four land exchanges involving the Vatopedi Monastery. «How is it possible that you appointed the same (legal) adviser in all four cases involving the monastery?» ND’s Nikos Dendias remarked.