Between 2006 and 2009, a number of scandals involving Greek politicians made it to the news. Formal enquiries were launched and the cases were tried in court. But in most cases, stringent action was not taken and some of the accused simply walked free. Here’s the list of top scandals that disgraced the Greece’s government and politics in recent times.
Navigation Menu of the Top 7 Political Scandals in Greece
1. Bonds Controversy – March 2007
In this scandal, unstructured bonds were sold in Feb 2007 to state pension funds. They had been underwritten by JP Morgan for the government and later sold to North Asset Management at 92.95% of their nominal value. These bonds were eventually bought by state pension funds at very high prices in the secondary market.
The government-brokered arrangement came under criticism from the public as well as the opposition. In June, North Asset Management and J P Morgan under pressure and criticism agreed to buy the complete bonds issue to cover up the losses pension funds had made. Labour Minister Savvas Tsitouridis was sacked after the incident and charges of money laundering were framed against him.
In this scandal, Labour Minister Vassilis Magginas was accused of harboring uninsured foreign workers in his Athens home. Allegations that the minister had allowed free accommodation to an Indian uninsured couple and their three children surfaced in 2007. This led to his resignation. But subsequent enquiries into the issue did not yield any conclusive results and the minister was cleared of charges after getting full support from the government.
Party Deputy Aristotle Pavlides was embroiled in a bribery scandal in 2009 after it was alleged that his aide had demanded bribes from a private ship-owning firm to grant a contract to ferry routes on the Aegean island. The Minister maintained throughout that he was innocent and refused to resign from his position. Investigations were launched after the case was moved to the Parliament but the Minister escaped indictment.
In March 2006, the government revealed that phones of more than 100 eminent Greek personalities, including that of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had been tapped between 2004 and 2005. After a two year investigation failed to yield results, the case was dropped and government concluded that foreign intelligence agencies were responsible. The Greek government was criticized for its mishandling of the case and failure to determine the mastermind behind the illegal tapping.
Vodafone Greece was fined €76 million by Greece’s Communication Privacy Protection Authority and charged with breach of privacy.
In February 2008, a sex scandal involving former Culture Ministry General Secretary Christos Zahopoulos surfaced. DVDs of the minister having sex with his female assistant was produced in the office of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. It was referred to as the ‘sex lied and dvd’ scandal by the media.
After news of the incident became public, Zahopoulus stepped down from his post and jumped from his fifth-floor balcony. He survived the fall but the sex scandal caused a lot of embarrassment to the Greek government.
Merchant Marine Minister George Voulgarakis and deputy ministers were accused in land swap deals, involving the wealthy Vatopedi monastery. It was alleged that the accused had spent over 100 million Euros in taxpayer money to finance the land deals. The investigations revealed a land swap between Voulgarakis and the Vatopedi monastery, which also involved the Minister’s wife who acted as an agent in the transaction.
An investigating committee was set up by the Parliament in October. Minister of State Theodore Roussopoulos resigned after news of his suspected involvement in the case surfaced. But the investigations failed to gather enough evidence and were halted in December.
7.7. Siemens Controversy – May 2008
In 2008, allegations of bribery against Siemens surfaced after it was found that the company had paid substantial sums to government officials and other companies to win deals, including security contracts for the 2004 Athens Olympics and a contract for the Athens subway. Close to 100 million Euros in bribe money was involved in the case.
The allegations have not been proved against Siemens or the Greek government. Siemens has also been charged with other corrupt dealings involving the Greek government, including spending millions to fund political campaigns of favored candidates.
After the debt crisis, citizens are demanding that Prime Minister George Papandreou makes good on his promise to stamp out corruption in the government. With so many political and corruption scandals disgracing the government in the past few years and little action being taken against those involved, the growing public resentment towards the government is only just. It is high time that Prime Minister Papandreou stepped up to tackle issues of corruption and transparency in his government.
Will the Greeks finally hold their ground and come out of the mess? It just remains to be seen.