NEWS

Seismic land register

On the eve of a senior European Union official’s visit to Athens for talks on Greece’s ill-starred attempts to compile a national land register, the government yesterday renewed its furious attacks on opposition New Democracy and a prosecutor who has filed charges of corruption and fraud against officials involved in the project. Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis, who is responsible for the enormous project that is expected to cost over one trillion drachmas, said he had faith in and respect for the Greek judiciary. But he singled out prosecutor Giorgos Gerakis for pressing charges in response to political orders. Following a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday – ahead of today’s visit by EU Commissioner Michel Barnier – Laliotis added that Gerakis can be judged by his acts, his omissions and his carelessness, and claimed that none of the cases Gerakis has pursued on political and social issues since the mid-1990s have held up in court. On Friday, Gerakis charged the entire board of the Ktimatologio SA public company, which is supervised by Laliotis’s ministry, on multiple counts of dereliction of duty that cost the State over 50 million drachmas. He also charged top officials at two of the project’s contractors, Eurodynamiki and Geo Synergy, with fraud. Work on the register began in 1994, with an initial budget of 250 billion drachmas, to which the EU contributed. Seven years later, a fraction of the project has been completed while the budget has soared to 600 billion, and is forecast to exceed 1.2 trillion, while the the EU has frozen funding. The four-day barrage by Laliotis and government spokesman Dimitris Reppas against Gerakis – accompanied by hints that a cabal of prosecutors and judges is working in cahoots with ND against the government – prompted 60 prosecutors yesterday to call an emergency meeting of their union on Tuesday to discuss the situation. Both the union and the Supreme Court have denounced previous government attacks on prosecutors. Laliotis also accused ND officials who have attacked his handling of the register as acting as messengers for private companies that want to take over the project. He claimed that Stylianos Kolonis, a former employee of Eurodynamiki – whose managing director, Alexandros Dekas, is married to PASOK MP Fotini Gennimata, daughter of a deceased former PASOK minister – has been signed on by ND… to undermine the national land register. He asserted that Kolonis is also working on behalf of a Swiss firm, Raymond Duraz, which, he claimed, wants to take over the project. Reppas described ND attempts to play up the Gennimata connection as grave-robbing. Both ND Chairman Costas Karamanlis and honorary chairman Constantine Mitsotakis accused Simitis of orchestrating the attacks on the judiciary. Scratch. A public prosecutor yesterday demanded an enquiry into the distribution of winnings from the Scratch instant lottery, alleging lack of transparency and possible breaches of the contract’s terms on the part of the consortium managing the lottery. The consortium, headed by Intralot and parent company Intracom, has refused to provide the electronic earnings verification system stipulated in the contract, making it impossible to know whether payments were actually made.