NEWS

Vatopedi probe for five former ministers

Five ministers who served in the previous New Democracy government are to face a thorough investigation into their part in the property exchange between the state and the Vatopedi Monastery, Parliament has decided. MPs voted overwhelmingly in favor of setting up a preliminary judicial inquiry to probe the roles played by former State Minister and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, ex-Deputy Economics and Finance Minister Petros Doukas, former Agricultural Development Minister Evangelos Bassiakos, his deputy Alexandros Kontos and ex-Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis. A parliamentary committee had recommended all five face further investigation. Parliament, again by a substantial majority, decided early on Tuesday that a sixth former member of the conservative government, Deputy Agricultural Development Minister Costas Kiltidis, should be cleared. A new panel of lawmakers will now be set up to find out whether there is evidence to suggest that any of the five former ministers committed criminal offenses. The inquiry is due to begin by mid-July and will have to be completed by October 1. If it finds that the ministers should be prosecuted, a special court will be set up to try them, although by the time that happens, it is possible that the five-year statute of limitations will apply and they will no longer have to stand trial. New Democracy’s leadership had decided not to give its MPs a strict party line to follow during Tuesday’s early morning vote. As a result, a handful of conservative deputies voted in favor of their colleagues being probed further. However, this paled in significance when compared with the damage done to the party’s image in two previous votes on Vatopedi when ND lawmakers were instructed to abstain.