NEWS

Row over Vatopedi intervention

In a move that prompted strong political reaction yesterday, Supreme Court prosecutor Giorgos Sanidas intervened to prevent the case file of the inquiry into the land exchange between the Vatopedi Monastery and the state being submitted to Parliament for a second time. It was revealed that Sanidas, who is due to retire in two months, has decided there is not enough evidence to indicate that any ministers or serving MPs did anything wrong in the lengthy process to set up the property swap, which is alleged to have cost taxpayers millions of euros because the Mount Athos monastery obtained prime real estate in exchange for property of a much lower value. Sources close to Sanidas said that the country’s top prosecutor rejected the requests of the two appeals prosecutors investigating the case to refer the matter to Parliament because he felt that no new evidence had emerged since the file was last sent to the House last November. Then, an investigative committee of MPs looked into claims that several conservative ministers and their deputies had been guilty of a breach of faith in setting up the deal. New Democracy and the opposition parties disagreed over whether a preliminary judicial investigation into the case should be held but the argument proved academic as conservative deputies abstained from the relevant vote in Parliament and the House’s involvement came to an end. The government yesterday reacted angrily to claims by Yiannis Ragoussis, the general secretary of PASOK’s political council, that the prosecutors probing the case would resign over Sanidas’s decision, just as they did before he changed his mind last November and sent the file to Parliament. Justice Minister Nikos Dendias accused the Socialists of making a «serious institutional gaffe» and of trying to intervene in the judicial process. But the head of the Prosecutors’ Union, Sotiris Bayias, accused Sanidas of overstepping his powers by preventing the file from being forwarded to Parliament a second time.