NEWS

Vatopedi dead end looming

New Democracy is preparing to put the blame for the Vatopedi land exchange on civil servants in order to avoid a preliminary judicial inquiry, sources said yesterday, as former conservative ministers lined up to deny any involvement in the allegedly corrupt deal. Ex-Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis, former Agricultural Development Minister Savvas Tsitouridis and ex-Employment Minister Vassilis Magginas all appeared before the parliamentary committee in a 24-hour period but gave investigating deputies little revealing information. Voulgarakis, whose wife and father-in-law acted as notaries for the monastery, said that he did not know anything about the details of the exchange and denied approving the transfer of land in Halkidiki’s Ouranoupolis that was classified as an archaeological site. Tsitouridis also said that he did not have any great knowledge of the matter during his brief tenure at the Agricultural Development Ministry. Instead, he said that Alexandros Kontos, who was his deputy at the time, handled the issue. Magginas said that he decided against relocating the Employment Ministry to a building in the Olympic Village because it was deemed unsuitable for his department’s needs and staff were against the move. This building was later included in the swap with the monastery. The former ministers’ testimonies fit in perfectly with the plan revealed by sources yesterday, which sees the government standing in the way of a more thorough probe. The MPs of each of the five parliamentary parties represented on the committee will produce a report when the inquiry is wrapped up on December 15. As things stand, the government’s intention is that its deputies will issue a report that blames some public services and civil servants for allegedly shortchanging taxpayers by giving Vatopedi land that was more valuable than the property the state got in return.