A former high-ranking official at the Agricultural Development Ministry yesterday accused several of ex-Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s closest aides and ministers of forcing through a property swap between the state and the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos that allegedly cost taxpayers millions. Testifying before magistrate Eirini Kalou, a former department head at the Agriculture Ministry, Stamatina Manteli, said that the director of Karamanlis’s political office, Yiannis Angelou, and ex-government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos had been instrumental in ensuring that the exchange – which saw the monastery obtain prime real estate in return for property of lesser value – went ahead. She claimed pressure was put on former Agriculture Minister Evangelos Bassiakos and his successor Alexandros Kontos to conclude the deal. «Without these interventions, the exchange would not have been completed so quickly or would not have taken place at all,» she said. The former civil servant said that the land deal, which centered on the monastery’s claim to a large area of land around Lake Vistonida near Xanthi, was completed after numerous interventions by Roussopoulos and Angelou. She claimed that Bassiakos «wet himself» every time the two men called him to push the deal through. Manteli recounted the details of several meetings with one of Vatopedi’s senior monks, Arsenios, saying he often called Roussopoulos or Angelou in her presence to arrange to meet for dinner or coffee and to ask for their assistance in completing the exchange, which allegedly cost the state some 100 million euros. Roussopoulos and Angelou immediately issued statements denying this was the case and accusing their former subordinate of fabricating her testimony. Manteli has been accused of being an accomplice to breach of faith against the state, making a false declaration and of taking more than 1,500 documents with her when she left office. She has been released on bail.