NEWS

Graft probe triggers PASOK loss

One of PASOK’s most senior officials, Christos Verelis, a former transport minister, resigned yesterday after a prosecutor in Athens launched an investigation into the purchase of 140 trolley buses in 2001 from the German truck manufacturer MAN AG, which is currently being investigated by authorities in Munich in connection with graft claims. Athens prosecutor Yiannis Sakelakos late on Thursday ordered a probe into the purchases of trolley buses and equipment that the Athens-Piraeus Electric Bus Company (ILPAP) agreed to buy from MAN between 2000 and 2002. Mirroring the Siemens cash-for-contracts scandal, the probe was launched after German prosecutors investigated MAN following claims that the company had bribed officials in a number of countries to secure purchase orders for its vehicles. Verelis, who served as transport minister between 2000 and 2004, said that he was stepping down because he wants to be «a catalyst for transparency.» He denied any wrongdoing and said that the purchase of the trolley buses, worth 85 million euros, was approved by a cross-party committee. «There is a supposed scandal – the MAN issue – but we do not know what happened and no facts are yet known,» said the 58-year-old. «Nevertheless, some foot soldiers and hacks are setting the scene for the June 7 hunt,» he added, suggesting he was being made a target ahead of next month’s European Parliamentary elections. Verelis indicated that he chose to resign immediately because of the negative sentiment created by a number of scandals, including the case against former Aegean Minister Aristotelis Pavlidis. «Not only is politics failing to inspire Greeks, but the atmosphere surrounding it has become an alibi for the cynicism that has trapped the country,» he said. Verelis’s seat in Parliament will be taken by Andreas Makripidis who, like the former minister, is from the Aitoloacarnania region.