The scent of scandal

For years we have been blaming the justice system for being unable to deal with major scandals such as the cash-for-contracts case involving Siemens. But the truth is that the Greek media’s failure to reveal the truth behind such complex cases has been equally impressive. Here, of course, we don’t mean certain newspapers or TV stations that ignored the very existence of the scandals because one of their owners was a friend or silent partner of the one of parties involved. There were and are a number of companies that have no such bonds and which have been unable, despite their best efforts, to untangle the threads of the snarl. We all know, for example, that since the 1990s there have been a number of scandals involving three specific sectors: arms supplies, OTE telecom’s public procurements and the health sector. If anyone wants to find out where all the money went, all they need to do is find the businessmen, politicians and civil servants who got rich in the free-for-all. There is nothing more frustrating to a journalist than being able to smell a scandal, knowing who is involved and how, and not being able to prove it. The mess that prevails in Greece makes for a very handy hideout. The absence, for example, of any comprehensive land register makes it almost impossible for someone to find to whom a particular property belongs. In the Siemens case, it has been obvious for years that the German electronics giant was not playing alone. We heard a lot about a Mr Pantelis, who moved huge amounts of money and organized meetings in a Filothei apartment rigged up with a high-tech security system to discuss OTE procurements. But no one was talking and no one could unravel the mystery of offshore companies, tight-lipped politicians and public servants with strong alliances. Let’s not forget that we first got wind of a scandal involving Siemens from a report published in the United States. Things have changed, however, because this corrupt system has led the country to the brink of bankruptcy, the people are angry and are demanding answers, and some of those in the know are beginning to talk. But it is important that we, the media, change as well and follow the lead of our foreign peers.

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