Parliament Sinks Venizelos Sub Probe

ATHENS – By an overwhelming vote of 167-120, the Greek Parliament easily rejected a demand from the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party that current Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos be investigated for his handling of a stalled submarine deal when he was defense minister in a previous government.

Venizelos is head of the PASOK Socialist party that is serving as the coalition partner with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative party leader, who critics said is trying to protect Venizelos to prevent embarrassment to the government.

Parliament earlier this year also rejected investigating him for not checking a list of Greeks with secret Swiss bank accounts for tax cheats when he was finance minister in a previous Socialist government.

SYRIZA wanted a probe into Venizelos’ signing of the deal when he was defense minister in 2010 with Abu Dhabi Mar, which owns 75 percent of the shipyards. The Democratic Left (DIMAR) and Independent MP Andreas Loverdos also voted against the motion, while 13 lawmakers did not vote.

Earlier, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras blamed Venizelos for a deal which saw the government pay 360 million euros in 2010 only for work on the submarines to stop in 2012 and the employees to have been unpaid since then. “Either you were the victim of a major scam … or you were part of it,” said Tsipras.

Venizelos responded by accusing SYRIZA of serving the interests of companies seeking to benefit from offset agreements in the defense sector. The PASOK leader referred specifically to the role of a retired air force officer, Yiannis Tafyllis, who is a member of SYRIZA’s secretariat. Tsipras told Venizelos to hand over to prosecutors any evidence to back up his allegations.

While the effort garnered attention in Parliament, it was largely ignored in the Greek news and by the public as the government tried to deal with a continuing economic crisis.