NEWS

Drama mars trial-fixing case

The Athens trial of a former MP and a businessman accused of being part of a trial-fixing ring that included a priest and numerous lawyers, judges and prosecutors degenerated into farce yesterday when one of the defendants, upon being found guilty, submitted evidence to the court which he said proved that the justice hearing the case, Giorgos Efstathiou, was corrupt. Businessman Yiannis Boletsis, on trial in connection with questionable verdicts in two previous court cases, was found guilty by Efstathiou of money laundering. This prompted an outburst from the defendant. «You scumbag blackmailer, I will put you in jail,» the businessman said to the judge. «Are you really the one that is trying to break the trial-fixing ring?» Boletsis immediately submitted to the court a CD that he said contained a recording of Efstathiou speaking with Archimandrite Iakovos Yiossakis, an alleged middleman in the trial-fixing ring, about an illicit payment of 60,000 euros. Efstathiou denied ever holding such a conversation with Yiossakis. However, Boletsis’s lawyers immediately asked for the judge to be excluded from the trial. This led to the hearing being halted. It is due to resume on Tuesday with a new judge, who will have to decide whether to continue where things left off today or whether to start the trial anew. Both Boletsis and Efstathiou were taken to hospital after their heated exchange. Earlier, the judge had exonerated former New Democracy MP Petros Mandouvalos and two of his former assistants at his legal practice, Christos Chatzipanayiotou and Sotiris Dinopoulos. They had been accused of helping to fix the outcome of trials. Mandouvalos, a former deputy for Piraeus, was expelled from New Democracy in October 2005 after being implicated in the ring. In November 2005, 16 people – seven lawyers, five judges, a prosecutor, two businessmen and a court employee – were charged with fixing trials.