Accounts of Vatopedi monks to be checked

A top prosecutor yesterday asked a committee set up to fight money laundering and other financial crimes for permission to inspect the bank accounts of the head monk at Vatopedi Monastery, as the investigation into its exchange of property with the state continues. Appeals prosecutor Kyriakos Karoutsos also asked for the green light to check the bank accounts of three other high-ranking monks at the Mount Athos monastery which is alleged to have benefited from the land swap. The prosecutor’s office has further asked for the monastery to provide it with the minutes of meetings that took place at Vatopedi when the deal was taking place in order to establish whether chief monk Ephraim had been given carte blanche to handle the exchange. The managing director of the State Property Company (SOE), Costas Gratsios, yesterday told MPs investigating the affair that allegations about state coffers being left some 100 million euros short by the property exchange are untrue. Gratsias said that the exchange was balanced and fair and did not harm taxpayers’ interests. He said that a building in the Olympic Village in Attica was included in the deal because the Employment Ministry, which owned it, could not find any use for it. Meanwhile, Supreme Court prosecutor Giorgos Sanidas has also ordered an investigation into land owned by the Toplou Monastery on Crete following a suit filed by the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA). The Cretan monastery has leased 2,500 hectares of land in Cavo Sidero, Lasithi, to a British company to build a major tourist development.