Take the risk

When the first post-party congress reactions by a group of 45 MPs of the ruling PASOK party under his erstwhile close collaborator Theodoros Tsoukatos challenged Prime Minister Costas Simitis, drawing a sharp response from Maximos Mansion, Kathimerini, in one of its main articles, hastened to point out that the prime minister could not be held hostage to special interests. A little later, when it became clear that certain business groups were pressuring the government over the incompatibility between mass media ownership and people doing business with the State, Kathimerini castigated, with the same vehemence, the interests which stood opposed to the prime minister and tried to reach their objectives in the darkness offstage. The prime minister had agreed with Kathimerini’s stand and had applauded its reports. But when criminal charges were filed against businessman Socrates Kokkalis, who is also a major supplier to the State and public firms, and the revelations began, regarding the wide web of political and economic interests that he had spun over the years, Mr Simitis was greatly upset. He began to flail left and right, to talk vaguely and to speak of a murky landscape aimed at overturning the political system, leaving the source of his problems untouched. We do not know what happened to make the prime minister change course. Perhaps his party’s entanglement with business interests is too great. Perhaps he himself feels too weak to oppose this strong front of powerful interests which has crushed everything in the country. Whatever the cause, the problem is large and unmistakable. The present crisis has a name and bears the stamp of Mr Socrates Kokkalis. Whoever does not see this is avoiding the issue. Since 1996, Kathimerini has revealed, through investigative reporting, dozens of bank accounts holding millions of dollars and marks which were sent to named and unnamed recipients with deposits in banks in Switzerland, Britain, West Germany, France and other countries. Those accounts, which were supplied by Kokkalis at critical periods in the growth of his group, were never opened. The inquiry by the German Parliament and the archives of the East German secret police, the Stasi, point to illegal funding of officials of public sector companies and of political parties. Now the issue of the accounts is raised directly. As in the past, as soon as this thorny issue comes to the fore, the complications of a coverup begin, with many, varied excuses. The question for the prime minister and the other political leaders is direct and clear: Why are these accounts not opened? What are you afraid of? And you Mr Prime Minister, why do you not assist justice to carry out its work? For Kathimerini, things are simple: If Mr Simitis really feels threatened by interests, and if he wants to govern in the light of day, as he says, he only has to offer the judiciary all the tools it needs to open these accounts.

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