The sins of 1999

After the EU summit in Athens came the rude awakening to pedestrian reality. The triumphant hoopla of the accession ceremony was succeeded by poisonous rumors about the stock market gamble during the boom, over the largely unexplored causes which led to the 1999 nosedive. Then, unsuspecting investors saw the savings of a lifetime evaporate in a flash. That traumatic period came back into the limelight with the resignation of Deputy Public Order Minister Evangelos Malesios and the revelations about the connections between reformist Socialist cadres and the now-stumbling business giants which were involved in the 1999 flop. A plethora of political officials back then were said to have made a fortune through dubious stock market transactions. The booty from those murky activities supported luxurious mansions and a lavish lifestyle. After the elections, many allegations were made, parliamentary committees were set up, prosecutors intervened but the issue remained mostly in the dark. Now a typical business tiff has catapulted the issue back onto center stage and has led us to the nub of the matter: political and business entanglement. The first to suffer the consequences are the younger members of the reformist wing, those who wanted power, wealth and glory – there and then. Now, they can barely mutter some excuses, overwhelmed as they are by the disclosures and public opprobrium. The questions are inexorable. How did they get the stock? Did they pay for it or was it the product of bribery? When did they enter and pull out from the bourse? Were the profits secured during the contentious electoral period of 2000? We have only started to untangle the web. When the most high-profile and contentious cases are opened, few will escape the upheaval – not even those eager opposition figures who rushed to capitalize on the case by hurling accusations.