Greek bureaucrat named and shamed in illegal building scandal is found dead

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The Independent Online

The apparent suicide of a bureaucrat, who unwillingly found herself at the centre of an illegal building scandal, has provoked uproar in Greece, heap- ing pressure on the country's ailing socialist government.

Extracts from the "suicide letters" of Rubini Stathea, 51, who was found dead at the bottom of a cliff on Monday, within walking distance of her family's holiday home in Keratea close to Athens, were published yesterday.

The finance ministry's deputy director on property issues had been named and shamed last week by the Public Works Ministry for allegedly dragging her feet over the demolition of illegally built luxury holiday homes. She came under immediate and heavy attack from opposition newspapers.

In a total of seven letters left to her family, the government and an Athens newspaper, Mrs Stathea said she had been unable to cope with the pressure first to block and then to speed up the demolition of illegally built beachside villas as the government vacillated.

In a letter to left-wing daily Eleftherotypia, she wrote: "I am not a heroine or a martyr. I must pay for my mistakes."

She urged her former colleagues "to become more effective, politicians more honest, judges more trustworthy and journalists less flesh eating."

In an apparent suicide note to her husband, Mrs Stathea said she was "under terrible pressure" and felt "deeply wronged by what has happened in recent days". She is survived by a daughter aged 25 and a son aged 22.

Her husband alerted authorities on Sunday evening after she walked out of the house saying she was thinking of taking her life.

Greek emergency services carried out a major search that ended when they found her pullover and glasses on a Keratea clifftop, and then her body, 40ft below.

Illegal building has been rampant in Greece since the 1950s when consecutive governments began to turn a blind eye to chaotic construction and urban sprawl. Hundreds of thousands of Greeks live in homes without permits and have become easy prey for corrupt local planning officials.

Governments have shied away from cracking down on illegal home owners - a valuable sources of votes - and the current administration unveiled a new bill rezoning forest land last week in a move denounced by the opposition as "naked electioneering". Conservative daily Kathimerini said Mrs Stathea's apparent suicide was a "typical example of the uncertainty, confusion and lack of transparency. The recent demolition campaign led to the unexpected: Instead of getting rid of a few illegal homes, a life was lost".

Greece was rated last week as the most corrupt country in the European Union by watchdog Transparency International.