ATHENS – Defense Minister Panos Kammenos will be the only government official involved in a botched deal that was to sell 66 million euros ($81.43 million) in missiles and bombs to Saudi Arabia to be called before a parliamentary committee looking into it.
The panel is controlled by lawmakers from the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA of Prime Minister Alexis, who has repeatedly protected Kammenos, and the minister’s Independent Greeks (ANEL), whose nine votes give the government a scant three-vote majority in Parliament.
Critics said the attempted deal was being done through a shadowy middleman, a broker that was in violation of laws requiring defense contracts to be at the government-to-government level after former defense ministers were caught up in scandals and stealing scores of millions of euros.
The panel, with the government MP’s holding a majority, rejected a request from the major rival New Democracy for government ministers and other officials to appear although there was no explanation why they didn’t continue to rally around Kammenos and instead will require him to testify.
Chairwoman Anastasia Christodoulopoulou, from SYRIZA, said only Kammenos will be summoned, but no date was set for the hearing, said Kathimerini.
Christodoulopoulou called for a new meeting to decide whether Kammenos should be appear before or after Turkey’s snap elections on June 24 as he’s tied up in dealing with growing provocations and become a lightning rod for criticism from rival parties.
Opposition MPs walked out of the committee meeting, accusing SYRIZA of staging a “parliamentary coup” and continuing to protect its own.
In November, 2017, New Democracy chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Kammenos, who has been allowed free rein by Tsipras, said the Premier was “tied hand and foot” to the Defense Minister and accused the coalition of being “unethical” and violating laws requiring defense contracts he handled through governments and without the use of private brokers.
Mitsotakis asked Tsipras – facing criticism from SYRIZA dissidents who said the weapons will be used to bomb Yemen – why a private broker was used after Saudi officials denied having any knowledge of the arrangement, disputed by the Premier and Kammenos.
The Greek Embassy in Riyadh had suggested the Saudi authorities did not authorize the broker, Vassilis Papadopoulos, and him and what was going to happen to the remaining 200,000 shells after the Saudis indicated that they would take 100,000 rather than the initially agreed 300,000.
“Did you know about all this? Was it approved by you? After all this, do you continue to support Mr. Kammenos?” Mitsotakis asked in a fierce Parliament debate, calling the affair a scandal “of the first order.”
Tsipras insisted that Papadopoulos, was checked and that Saudi authorities confirmed he had indeed been authorized to conduct the talks but there was no explanation why no one is being charged with violating the law forbidding that kind of an arrangement.
“Mr. Mitsotakis, you should apologize to the defense minister, the foreign minister and the diplomatic corps,” said Tsipras. “You are not harming the government, but the country.”
“You are being guided by a media lobby,” said Tsipras, Kathimerini reported on the debate. “You are not targeting Kammenos because you have a problem with him but because you want to inflict damage on the government. In the depths of their sick minds, they want to create conditions that will destabilize this government because they do not want us to lead Greece out of the crisis.”