ND senses shift on Vatopedi

New Democracy is hoping that the investigation into the Vatopedi property exchange is turning in its favor after the reliability of one witness, who claimed the scandal was linked to Prime Minister Costas Kramanlis, was called into doubt. The reaction of several ministers yesterday suggested that the government feels the tide may be turning on a scandal that has dogged the ruling conservatives for the last few months. «It is not possible and is not proper for political powers to uncover false witnesses, who are also linked to underworld figures, who directly attack the prime minister and the government,» said Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos. He was commenting on the testimony of lawyer Tania Sotiropoulou, who represented the owners of land involved in the deal. Sotiropoulou was called by the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) to answer questions before a parliamentary committee last week. She claimed that Thessaloniki’s conservative Prefect Panayiotis Psomiadis told her that Karamanlis ordered the land swap between the state and the Vatopedi Monastery. Psomiadis denies ever making these claims and a secretly filmed video first aired on Friday appears to show Sotiropoulou’s husband Michalis Koukovinos asking a developer for property in return for him not revealing details about the land swaps. MPs on the investigative panel are due to see the full 13 minutes of the video today but ND already feels that it has weakened the case against the government, as it indicates underhanded methods were being used to try to incriminate the conservatives. PASOK issued a statement accusing ND of trying to fool people by emphasizing the testimony of one witness when more than 60 have been questioned so far. The parliamentary probe is entering a crucial phase as Vatopedi head monk Ephraim is due to face questioning next week along with Psomiadis and the wife of former Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis, Katerina Peleki.