OPINION

Impunity

The relationship between Deputy Public Order Minister Vangelis Malesios and businessman Athanassios Athanassoulis goes back to the days when they were both members of the PASOK youth party, with low incomes and rich ambitions. Many years have passed since then. Malesios was elected a deputy and is a member of the Socialist government. Athanassoulis has managed, within 15 years, to establish a large IT firm. He recently also became the owner of a television network. Much talk in the corridors of power has taken place in recent years over the mutually beneficial turn of the old friendship between Athanassoulis and Malesios, as well as that of a number of other government officials. The allegations that were published in the Avriani daily yesterday – which were clearly part of the ongoing conflict of interests – inevitably raised a big moral issue for Malesios and they have justly led to his resignation – or, more precisely, his removal. Nevertheless, it is striking that the deputy did not even bother to keep up the pretext. People in the know, however, have long been aware that this case is trivial next to wider political and business entanglements. It is right that many government officials have made sure to take necessary precautions. The concealment of illegally acquired assets through offshore companies is the rule, not the exception. Corruption and entangled interests at the top of the social pyramid are a common trait in most countries. In Greece, however, the phenomenon has taken on an endemic character. What is worse, politicians and laymen alike tend to treat this as a normal phenomenon. But corruption not only harms the public interest. It has a deleterious effect on social morality; it undermines healthy competition, and it ultimately corrodes our democratic institutions. We all know the measures that have to be taken in order to curb the phenomenon, but the political elite has showed little, if any, political will to take these measures, in effect nourishing a climate of impunity. In some cases, blatant intervention was made even when the offense was visible to the naked eye. It is not that long ago that the prime minister evaded the deputies’ questions. Hiding behind the legalism that «should anyone possess any evidence, they should take it to the prosecutor» is nothing but an evasion.