Land swap inquiry concludes

Former government spokesman and Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos yesterday rejected accusations that he had orchestrated the land deal with the Vatopedi Monastery and told investigating MPs that the prime minister had not been involved either. Roussopoulos, who resigned over allegations that he had helped set up the property exchange, was the 119th and last witness to appear before the parliamentary committee that is investigating the affair. As was the case with several former and current ministers that were questioned before him, Roussopoulos gave the deputies very little in the way of new evidence and it now seems the committee’s final report is unlikely to shed much light on the matter. Roussopoulos admitted to holding talks with local officials from Xanthi, where Lake Vistonida is located, in September 2004. He also spoke to Ephraim, then the abbot at Vatopedi, at around the same time. The monastery gave up land around the lake in return for some prime real estate as part of the deal, which is alleged to have cost taxpayers up to 100 million euros. Roussopoulos, who was the prime minister’s right-hand man, emphasized that he never discussed the Vatopedi affair with Costas Karamanlis. He later told journalists that as far as he knew, Karamanlis did not discuss the land swap with other ministers either. The conservative MP expressed disappointment at finding out over the last few days that the monastery had a wide range of investments, including stocks and shares in a property firm. Members of the parliamentary committee are due to meet next week to decide whether to issue a combined report or whether each party will issue its own, which is most likely. The findings must be submitted by December 15 but it is thought that New Democracy and PASOK could produce their reports a few days before that.

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