Ex-premier rejects Vatopedi claims

Former Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has told the parliamentary committee probing the Vatopedi land exchange that no member of his conservative government should face charges over the swap. In two pages of written testimony, Karamanlis claims that the land around Lake Vistonida in northern Greece, which the Vatopedi Monastery exchanged for sought-after pieces of property belonging to the state, had been handed over to the monks by previous PASOK governments. Karamanlis added that the ministers in his administration who carried out the swap deal «had merely followed the legal procedure for exchanges that had been used in the past.» The former premier refused to face the Vatopedi committee in person, as requested, preferring to send his deposition in writing. The call for Karamanlis to testify came after Katerina Peleki, who is married to former Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis and acted as a notary in the land exchange, referred to a «central political decision,» which she alleged came from Karamanlis’s office. Meanwhile, the head of a parliamentary committee probing the Siemens cash-for-contracts scandal, Sifis Valyrakis, said yesterday the panel would continue to sit until October 20 in order to examine the testimonies of key witnesses and suspects currently in Germany. MPs are to visit Germany over the coming days to interview former Siemens Hellas CEO Michalis Christoforakos and other suspects to garner additional evidence that could lead to more witnesses being summoned. In a related development, Giorgos Tsougranis, a close friend of former Transport Minister Tasos Mantelis who has also been implicated in the Siemens scandal, was freed pending trial on charges of money laundering after posting 50,000 euros in bail.