ATHENS – In written testimony to a parliamentary committee, Greek-Israeli businessman Sabby Mionis claimed he was pressured to give then-alternate justice minister Dimitris Papangelopoulos from the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA a bribe in 2016.
Papangelopoulos is being probed by the committee for alleged interference in the unraveled case of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis in which SYRIZA said 10 political rivals took bribes, based on the word of three whistleblowers who had no proof.
Mionis’ claim – partially repeating earlier assertions – sparked a firestorm between SYRIZA and the ruling New Democracy as another prominent former minister for the Leftists, Nikos Pappas, was ensnared.
Mionis, said Kathimerini in a report, told the committee he was harassed by judicial officials he didn’t name – a common tactic in Greek politics – for not paying a bribe to Papangelopoulos, although it wasn’t said for what it was.
Mionis attached an audio recording of a phone conversation then-Minister of State Pappas who told the businessman that Papangelopoulos was known for having his “own agenda” and “making a lot of money” from backroom deals, or “outsourcing.”
He also appears to be goading Mionis to encourage an ex-aide to former premier Antonis Samaras to denigrate the profile of Mareva Grabowski, wife of the then leader of the official opposition and current Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis the paper said.
The Conservatives said the testimony showed SYRIZA was operating a “ruthless parastate” during its 4 ½-year reign that ended in a big defeat to New Democracy in July 7, 2019 snap elections.
New Democracy legislator Athanasios Plevris said the recording contradicted what Pappas had told the committee and said, “We must send to the competent prosecutor the minutes from the testimony of Nikos Pappas to the committee and the dialogues from the audio as they are completely different,” he said
“What we have heard is extremely shocking,” he said although Pappas said New Democracy was engaging in a “ridiculous distraction” after “shocking revelations” were made earlier in the probe about Greece’s former top corruption prosecutor Eleni Raikou, and Samaras.
In a televised statement, Pappas said the recording was unlawful because it was made secretly and that it had been heavily edited in an attempt to falsify the meaning and said New Democracy was using “Mafia methods” to get him, the two parties firing shots again.
He said references in the recordings about “an agenda” and “doing jobs” have nothing to do with Papangelopoulos.
Other reports said that when asked during a private conversation to comment about the content of the talk that Papangelopoulos said, “Ask Mr Pappas.”If anything happens to me, know that I don't have suicidal tendencies. I am a victim of a global criminal organization," he reportedly said without any indicating what he was talking about.
Dimitris Biangis, a lawmaker for the politically irrelevant center-left Movement for Change (KINAL) backed asking for a prosecutor to look into the recording and how it clashed with Pappas’ testimony to the committee.
Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Pappas should be dismissed from SYRIZA’s parliamentary group although there was no move to do so by the party leader and former premier Alexis Tsipras, with Pappas being perhaps his closest aide.
“It has been 24 hours since the revelation of a ruthless parastate at work during his tenure and … Tsipras continues to remain silent,” Petsas said, demanding a response.
“The questions are relentless. Did Mr. Tsipras know of the existence of this parastate? If so, what did he do about it? Was he informed by Mr Pappas, who was minister of state in his government at the time and his closest aide?” asked Petsas.
He added that Pappas ought to be struck from the party’s parliamentary group “as a minimum sign of respect for the rules of democracy,” but wasn't.