Political row over Vatopedi swap

A former conservative minister denied yesterday the allegations made last week to a parliamentary committee by an ex-civil servant that members of the previous New Democracy government pushed through the controversial real-estate exchange between the state and the Vatopedi Monastery. Former Agricultural Development Minister Alexandros Kontos directly questioned the testimony given on Friday by a former department head at the Agriculture Ministry, Stamatina Manteli. The former bureaucrat had claimed that the director of former Prime Minister Costas 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. Kontos claimed that Manteli had been pressured by PASOK officials into making these claims and pointed out the fact that she had not mentioned any such thing in her original deposition. When questioned as to whether Karamanlis should also be questioned as part of the parliamentary probe, Kontos replied: «Of course not.» The panel of MPs investigating the swap is due to reconvene tomorrow.

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