OPINION

Conflicting interests

Citing «conflicting business interests,» PASOK has twice in the last 20 years (under Andreas Papandreou and Costas Simitis) ignored accusations of corruption, with the result that the country’s political life has been at immediate risk of being run by extra-institutional «godfathers.» A similar attempt is now being made – fortunately without political backing – by certain entangled interests ahead of the government’s first legislative moves to stamp out corruption. Here one needs to consider what is meant by the words «conflicting business interests.» There is general agreement that there are legal and illegal interests. For example, during the Koskotas affair under the Papandreou government, newspapers were bought out and new ones published with money stolen from the Bank of Crete. Rival publishers naturally protested against this unfair and unequal competition. So, apart from the press’s obligation to serve the truth, there was also a clash of interests – wholly justified, as legal interests were fighting illegal ones. Thus the governments of the time wrongly – or suspiciously – invoked conflicting business interests in order to turn a deaf ear to accusations of fraud and corruption of politicians. The Simitis governments also ignored the phenomena. Invoking conflicting business interests, the regime of the day not only buried its collective head in the sand politically but helped to conceal guilt. Furthermore, the accusations were now directly concerned with the government’s dealings with illegal private interests. Since Simitis and his ministers knew very well that those making the accusations had no other motive than to uncover corruption, Simitis committed a greater wrong than his predecessor, because in trying to absolve those involved in corruption, he tried to equate accusers with the accused.