Panel Says Former Prime Minister Took Bribes
ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ A parliamentary committee looking into a $210 million banking scandal said Thursday that former Premier Andreas Papandreou accepted bribes and should be investigated with four of his ministers.
It was the second time this week that Papandreou was accused of wrongdoing while he headed the socialist government from 1981 until June.
On Tuesday, another parliamentary committee proposed that the 70-year-old Papandreou appear before a special court investigating wiretaping purportedly carried out for him by the state intelligence service. The wiretaps were reportedly put on phones of Papandreou’s political opponents.
In addition to accusing Papandreou of taking bribes, Thursday’s panel report also said he had committed breach of faith and received stolen material from fugitive banker George Koskotas, according to committee chairman Nikos Katsaros. He announced the findings to journalists.
The report said a special court should be set up to investigate the reports that Panpandreou and the other ministers were involved in embezzling funds.
Parliament Speaker Athanassios Tsaldaris said a two-day debate will be held on the scandal, which centers on Koskotas and his privately-owned Bank of Crete, at the end of September.
A debate on the reported wiretaps will also be held, but no date has been set.
If Parliament accepts the proposals of the two committees, the Supreme Court president will preside over two special investigating tribunals. They will be made up of 12 Supreme Court or Appeals Court judges.
If formal charges are filed as a result of the inquiries, the former government officials would be tried by these same courts.
Koskotas, chairman and owner of the Bank of Crete, was removed from his post by the government last October amid press reports he was embezzling the bank. A later audit showed $210 million was missing.
Since then, the scandal has continued to make headlines and political waves. The scandal hurt Papandreou in his failed bid to lead his party to victory in national elections in June.
The political opposition and most of the press have accused Papandreou and several of his ministers of complicity with Koskotas.
Most of the charges originated with Koskotas himself, who fled Greece in November and later gave interviews to the media after he was arrested and held in Salem, Mass.
He was quoted as saying Papandreou had blackmailed him into embezzling funds, and that the money supported Papandreou’s party.
Koskotas is awaiting extradition to Greece.
Katsaros’ committee was formed in July to look into any involvement by Papandreou and the other ministers. The former members are Deputy Premier Agamemnon Koutsogiorgas, National Economy Minister Panayotis Roumeliotis, Finance Minister Dimitris Tsovolas and Transport Minister George Petsos.
Members of Papandreou’s Panhellenic Socialist Movement, or PASOK, walked out of parliamentary proceedings on the scandal last week, charging that they were attempts to slur the former premier.
Papandreou has accused the political opposition of attempting to destroy him politically. However, he has refused to testify before the two parliamentary committees. Instead, he sent messages questioning the legality of the inquiries and denying guilt.
It is considered virtually certain that Parliament will agree to more investigations because 173 seats in the 300-seat chamber are held by conservative and leftist parties that united to form a government.
The coalition administration succeeded the socialists after no party won a clear majority in June’s national elections. It has pledged to make major steps to clean up Greek political life and hold new elections by Nov. 5.