Dinosaurs carry on Greek vendetta

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The Independent Online
THE Greek Prime Minister, Andreas Papandreou, has engineered the trial of his predecessor, Constantine Mitsotakis, on bribery and corruption charges in the latest episode of a classic vendetta.

Mr Papandreou, 74, and the former New Democracy leader, Mr Mitsotakis, 75, have been at each other's throats for decades. Even in times of national crisis, neither has lost sight of their main objective - destroying the other's career, ideally with a lengthy jail sentence. While in office both have used their parliamentary majorities to have corruption charges levelled against each other in ways considered highly unorthodox elsewhere in the European Union.

Athens commentators regard the latest moves by Mr Papandreou's Pasok government to strip the former prime minister and two former cabinet ministers of their parliamentary immunity so that charges could be brought as Greek-style revenge politics.

Parliament voted on Thursday to send Mr Mitsotakis to trial on charges that he accepted a pounds 14.5m bribe during the privatisation of Greece's Heracles cement company which was sold to the Bank of Greece and the Calcestruzzi cement company of Italy in 1992. It also voted to bring charges for corruption against Greece's European Commissioner, Ioannis Paloekrassos, and Andreas Andrianopoulos, a highly-regarded New Democracy politician tipped for future leadership.

New Democracy is now led by Miltiades Evert and there is evidence that he co-operated with the Pasok government in the hope of destroying the reputations of Mr Mitsotakis and his associates. Mr Evert ousted Mr Mitsotakis earlier this year and reversed the party's neo-liberal agenda.

While Mr Mitsotakis was in office between 1990 and 1993 he led a crusade of privatisation and cost- cutting aimed at undoing the excesses of the previous Pasok administration. It was then that the allegations of corruption in the Pasok administration emerged, including charges that some in the Pasok leadership personally profited from its years in office.

The finger was soon pointed at Mr Papandreou and he was subjected to a public trial. He was acquitted and despite damage to his reputation, engineered a remarkable comeback last year when he won the general election with a landslide majority.