NEWS

Pavlidis has ND sweating

Former Aegean Minister Aristotelis Pavlidis spent more than six hours answering MPs’ questions yesterday as part of Parliament’s preliminary judicial investigation into alleged corruption, an issue that could still cause major problems after Easter when the deputies reconvene to assess the evidence they have heard. PASOK suggested yesterday that its representatives believe the 13-member committee has heard enough evidence to suggest that Pavlidis should have his immunity from prosecution lifted and be investigated further. Such a scenario would cause the New Democracy government problems due to its slim one-seat majority in Parliament. The conservatives are unlikely to want to rely on the vote of the Dodecanese MP if he is associated with corrupt practices and, should Pavlidis refuse to resign, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis could be forced to call early elections. Rumors that the government may choose to double up on the European Parliamentary elections on June 7 and hold general elections then as well have intensified in recent weeks but continue to be denied by the conservatives. New Democracy party secretary Lefteris Zagoritis expressed the government’s concern over the matter and recognized that it was damaging the conservatives ahead of the June 7 poll. Pavlidis insisted yesterday that claims by shipowner Fotis Manousis that he had to pay bribes to win state-subsidized contracts for routes to remote islands were unfounded. «On all matters of direct relevance to the case, my answers were full, which is backed up by the documents I presented,» the ex-minister told journalists. «Manousis’s allegations are false, inaccurate and slanderous.» Pavlidis was repeatedly questioned about an apartment purchased by his daughter. It has been alleged that the property was paid for by Manousis’s bribes. The MPs are due to meet again next Wednesday to decide how to proceed with the compilation of a report that will be submitted in Parliament. All 300 MPs will then decide whether Pavlidis should face further investigation in a secret ballot.