NEWS

Laliotis: Prosecutor must prove innocence

Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis asserted yesterday that a prosecutor who has filed corruption and fraud charges against officials involved in the lagging, multi-billion-drachma land register project must prove he has no ties with opposition MPs. Prosecutor Giorgos Gerakis has come under heavy fire from Laliotis, who is responsible for the register, ever since he pressed charges on September 28 against the board of Ktimatologio SA – the state-run company handling the project – as well as top officials in two of the contracting companies. The minister claims Gerakis is working in cahoots with opposition New Democracy to discredit the government. He also maintains that ND wants to hand the project to private firms. The government has given Laliotis full support in his allegations. Yesterday, Laliotis sent Supreme Court judges, the Parliament speaker and the Athens Bar Association documents which he claimed contain evidence of an umbilical cord linking ND with prosecutors. Speaking on SKAI radio, he said Gerakis must prove he had no relations with New Democracy MPs when they gave advance announcement of his actions. The original 44-billion-drachma budget, to which the EU contributed 75 percent, for a pilot scheme involving a fraction of the register has more than doubled since 1994, while only a quarter of the envisaged work has been completed. This prompted EU internal market commissioner Michel Barnier to tell the Greek government on Friday that Brussels will seek back a substantial part of the funds, and subjecting future funding to very close scrutiny. Laliotis represented this as a positive development. Earlier, Simitis had briefed President Costis Stephanopoulos on the situation. US Ambassador Thomas Miller visited Stephanopoulos to present his credentials and the president took the opportunity to express once again his condolences for the thousands of deaths caused by the terrorist attacks in America.