Parliament set for graft probes
A series of parliamentary investigations into corruption scandals that have plagued Greece over roughly the last decade are set to begin next week, it was decided yesterday. Following discussions in the House, it was agreed that MPs will debate next Monday and Wednesday which of their colleagues will sit on the first two committees that are to probe graft in public life. At the request of the ruling PASOK party, investigations will be launched into the possible involvement of politicians or state officials in the manipulation of share prices between 1999 and 2008, whether any public servants or party representatives accepted bribes from Siemens Hellas, the purchase of structured government bonds by pension funds at allegedly inflated prices, the exchange of land between the state and the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos and Cosmote’s highly costly purchase of the Germanos electronic goods retail chain. However, the government has decided that the Siemens and Vatopedi cases will be the first to be looked into. An investigation into the land swap could prove damaging for New Democracy, as it is the most recent of all the corruption scandals and could involve conservative politicians such as former Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis being called to answer questions. ND has accused PASOK of using the committees as a smoke screen so attention is not drawn to the government’s failings. «I do not believe that the government is trying to distract people’s attention, nor do I think there is a threat to the consensus needed between parties due to the wider [economic] problems,» said Parliament Speaker Fillipos Petsalnikos. Last year, a cross-party parliamentary committee failed to bring corruption charges against any official or politician implicated in the Vatopedi scandal, in which the monastery is alleged to have obtained prime real estate from the government in exchange for land of a lesser value. However, the inquiry was riddled by infighting between the parties.