Pavlidis probe gathers pace

The committee of MPs set up to investigate accusations of corruption against former Aegean minister Aristotelis Pavlidis heard the testimony of a senior Merchant Marine Ministry official on Saturday as several politicians called for a review of the law granting deputies immunity from prosecution. Testimony on Saturday from the General Secretary of the Merchant Marine Ministry, Yiannis Tzoannos, fuelled debate as he reportedly told the committee that coastal shipping routes for remote islands cannot be awarded to foreign-flagged vessels or vessels that belong to offshore firms. Tzoannos’s comments appear to refute testimony by ship owner Fotis Manousis, whose claims of blackmail led to the probe against Pavlidis. Manousis reportedly claims to have paid under the table to operate the Kavala-Lemnos-Samos route that was eventually awarded to a Bahamas-flagged vessel belonging to an offshore firm. The committee is today due to hear the testimony of Pavlidis’s daughter, who is alleged to have bought a home with cash of questionable origin. It will also hear testimony today from another shipowner, Giorgos Spanos, as well as from the Mayor of the Aegean island of Tilos, Tassos Aliferis, who last week brought a fresh set of blackmail charges against Pavlidis. Meanwhile, there has been debate about the law governing the accountability of ministers, with some prominent politicians calling for a change to existing legislation. «If a politician is charged, he should face justice,» Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis told Sunday’s Eleftherotypia. Former justice minister Michalis Stathopoulos said the investigation of former ministers should not be entrusted exclusively to ministers and prosecutors but to a mixed committee of judges and politicians. This would require a change to existing legislation governing ministers’ accountability before the law, he said.

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