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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-11-20
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Government on leak concerning PASOK, Vatopedi probeThe government on Thursday sharply criticised the stance adopted by main opposition PASOK spokesman George Papaconstantinou in concealing his knowledge of the blackmail case connected to the Vatopedi land swaps, after a meeting between Papaconstantinou and the businessman being blackmailed was leaked to the press.
"Instead of taking any evidence he had to a public prosecutor - and may I point out that he is also an MP - he conceals what he knows for a long time, for two months. He assents to the summoning of witnesses that proved to be false witnesses belonging to a troop of people that are directly linked to the blackmail DVD," government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros pointed out in statements to reporters.
Antonaros said the information raised "huge moral and political issues" because a senior member of the main opposition party had consented to the summons of questionable witnesses before the Parliament fact-finding commission investigating the case, and he talked about a "guilty common secret" that bound both Papaconstantinou and the businessman Athanassios Papistas to silence and made them conceal their meeting.
He further accused Papaconstantinou of having organised the summoning of the specific witness - lawyer Stamatia Sotiropoulou - by supplying some of its members with targeted questions that led to specific answers.
According to Antonaros, PASOK's spokesman had then sought to gain petty political capital from the affair by linking those involved to ruling New Democracy, while concealing his own links and knowledge of the affair, and by allowing what he knew to be an unreliable witness to make damaging statements implicating the premier.
Antonaros further suggested that PASOK might be trying to lay the blame on ND in order to conceal its own involvement and did not rule out the possibility that PASOK leader George Papandreou had been aware of the DVD's existence, especially after Sotiropoulou's testimony.
In statements before the Parliament investigation committee, Sotiropoulou said that Thessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis had identified the case as coming from "high up" and even named Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. Soon afterwards, however, the committee was alerted to the existence of a DVD showing that Sotiropoulou's partner Michalis Koukovinos had at the time been guilty of blackmailing Papistas over the case and her claims about Psomiadis' statement were contradicted by the other witness that she cited as present, Constantina Kanou.
Continuing its investigation, meanwhile, the Parliament investigation committee on Thursday heard testimony from one of the major shareholders in the company Noliden, Spyros Polemis, who had bought the former Olympic property in Thrakomakedones given to the Vatopedi monastery during the land swaps.
The witness surprised members of the committee with his claim that he had agreed to make a nine-million-euros donation to the monastery, conditional on getting the management of a rehabilitation centre for the disabled set up on the site, entirely on the basis of a verbal agreement with nothing set in writing, as well as his claim that he had taken all information given to him about the property on trust, paying out 41 million euros for it without employing either lawyers nor surveyors to ensure that the monastery's assertions were true.
MPs also heard from the witness Aikaterini Peleki, the notary that had drawn up the contracts for the land on behalf of the monastery and also the wife of politician and former minister George Voulgarakis. She insisted that she had not acted improperly in drawing up the contracts and said that it was the responsibility of state services to contest points in her contracts that they considered inaccurate, which they had not done.
 Thousands of inmates to be released from Greek jailsThe new measures announced by Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis for improving conditions in Greek prisons will result in the gradual release of 5,500 inmates by April 2009, while the draft law will be tabled in Parliament for approval within the day, the justice ministry announced on Thursday. The inmate population will be reduced to 6,815 individuals from 12,315 today, thus settling the prison overcrowding problem, considering that the country's correctional facilities are designed to hold a total of 8,243 inmates. Based on the new measures, a total of 1,740 inmates serving sentences of up to 5 years will be immediately released if they meet the terms outlined in the Penal Code, while nine individuals with severe health problems will also be among those whose prison sentences will be terminated effective immediately. A hunger strike in protest to overcrowding and poor living conditions was launched in all Greek prisons earlier in the month with the participation of thousands of inmates. Commenting on the draft bill, main opposition PASOK spokesman for domestic affairs Haris Kastanidis said the bill was inadequate and, in spite of containing some positive measures, could not address the problem as a whole. He pointed to a need for different kinds of measures that struck directly at the cause of the problem, which changes to the penal and judicial code. As an example, he cited article 282 that governed the way that suspects were remanded in custody.
 28-bln-euro plan approved by EUGovernment spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Thursday stressed that the government's plan for stabilizing domestic markets and financial institutions in the country was "rounded, substantial and effective", one day after its approval by the European Commission in Brussels. He was commenting on concerns expessed by the Bank of Greece that the 28-billion-euro package envisaged by the bill might not be enough.
"It was presented by the prime minister on Wednesday in Parliament. It is a plan for supporting the Greek economy and that is how it will operate," he said.
The European Commission on Wednesday approved a Greek government‚s plan, announcing late on Wednesday that its approval was based on community rules over state subsidies. The Commission noted that under the Greek plan, the government ?will offer to selected financial institutions new capital and securities, along with guarantees to sign short- and medium-term loans under strict rules?.
The EU‚s executive also noted that the Greek plan was in line with community rules on state subsidies and were focused to deal with the effects of a financial crisis, such as ensuring equal access to financial support, limited time and extent, commission payment based on market values and includes all necessary measures to minimize any problems to free competition.
Meanwhile, discussion on the draft bill tabled in Parliament entered its second day on Wednesday, with a confrontation between the government and the opposition.
Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis termed the bill "necessary for the economy" and said that it safeguarded loan holders and boosted liquidity on the market with the parallel strengthening of development initiatives.
Main opposition PASOK called for the bill's withdrawal and stressed that it does not help loan holders or the market liquidity, only bankers.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga said that her party will vote against the bill that "gives ready cash to banks and proposes another batch of measures for public investments that serve real social needs."
The bill was also opposed by Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary representative, Panayiotis Lafazanis, who termed it a "provocation and a great scandal", and by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party rapporteur Makis Voridis, who said that "no commitment exists for bankers."
 Stocks end 4.24 pct downGreek stocks plunged in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, with the composite index of the market ending at 1,816.58 points, down 4.24 percent. Turnover was a low 170.3 million euros, of which 10.6 million were block trades.
Most sectors moved lower, with the Healthcare (6.55 pct), Raw Materials (6.36 pct), Travel (5.61 pct), Banks (5.30 pct), Commerce (5.04 pct) and Utilities (4.46 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Media (1.09 pct) and Food/Beverage (0.77 pct) scored gains.
The FTSE 20 index fell 4.68 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 4.44 pct down and the FTSE 80 index eased 2.52 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 187 to 39 with another 43 issues unchanged.
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