Greek to investigate politicians in scandal

By Renee Maltezou and Ingrid Melander

ATHENS (BestGrowthStock) – Greek lawmakers agreed Tuesday to probe several politicians suspected in a land swap scandal, in a move aimed at satisfying the public’s demand for retribution for decades of corruption.

The country’s wide-ranging statute of limitation means it is likely many former officials will avoid being charged in the affair, which dates back several years, but they could be named and shamed by a special investigating committee.

Dealing with past scandals is key to ensuring public support for tough austerity measures to fight a huge debt crisis that has sent shockwaves throughout the euro zone.

“Our target is and should be … transparency everywhere, transparency on everything, transparency for everyone,” said Parliament President Filippos Petsalnikos. “This is what Greeks demand.”

A preliminary parliamentary committee set up in January investigated why the wealthy Vatopedi monastery on Mount Athos, one of the largest in northern Greece’s all-male monastic community, received prime, state-owned real estate in exchange for cheap rural land.

It decided Tuesday the case should now be examined by a higher committee which has the power to lift politicians’ immunity and act as a prosecutor.

“The committee proposes to further investigate the Vatopedi monastery scandal,” said the head of the committee, Manolis Bedeniotis.

Parliament, where the ruling socialists have a large majority, is expected to rubber-stamp the decision soon.

The Vatopedi scandal shocked Greece, where the Orthodox Church represents more than 90 percent of the 11 million population. The affair helped bring down the previous conservative government.

Political parties disagreed on who was to blame and issued separate reports, but all agreed that the case should be further investigated. Some names of former ministers and deputy ministers appear in all of the reports.

The politicians that have been named, and the Vatopedi monastery, have all denied any wrongdoing.

Polls show most Greeks are more willing to accept austerity measures aimed at pulling their country out of a severe debt crisis if those involved in scandals are brought to justice.

Greeks have staged repeated strikes this year to protest against austerity, and demonstrators have chanted “Thieves!” and “Burn parliament!” during marches to parliament in Athens.

Although no money changed hands, local media have said that the state lost 100 million euros worth of land in the property swap intended to settle the monastery’s land claims in northern Greece.

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(Editing by Peter Graff)

Greek to investigate politicians in scandal