SYRIZA Drops Depth Charge on Venizelos

ATHENS – With a former defense minister, Akis Tsochatzopoulos, jailed for 20 years in a money laundering and corruption scheme, the major opposition SYRIZA party wants Parliament to probe the role former finance chief Evangelos Venizelos had in overseeing contracts for a submarine.

Venizelos, the PASOK Socialist leader, is now Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister in the coalition government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative leader.

Venizelos has often sparred with SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras over government policies and critics of the leftists say they are just trying to cause embarrassment without grounds.

Tsipras though said a parliamentary inquiry should be held to scrutinize the deal signed by Venizelos in 2010 with the Abu Dhabi Mar holding company to build four submarines for the Hellenic Navy at the Skaramangas shipyards, west of Athens.

The contract was an extension of an agreement signed by Tsochatzopoulos. Samaras has solidly backed his partner, although Venizelos said he doesn’t need anyone to defend him because he said he’s done nothing wrong.

The contracts go back 13 years and involved oversight by a number of officials. Last month, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou noted that “Venizelos’s interventions in this affair during his term at the Defense Ministry were carried out in conditions of full transparency.”