ATHENS – Setting the state for another likely brouhaha between Greece’s two major parties, some 30 lawmakers from the ruling New Democracy want an investigation of a former minister from its major rival SYRIZA over TV licenses.
Nikos Pappas had been a chief advisor and in charge of a scheme to award licenses to private TV stations after reinstating the state broadcaster ERT that was closed by a former New Democracy-led coalition and replaced.
Pappas allegedly tried to manipulate the bids for the private licenses in favor of SYRIZA allies to give the then-government sympathetic voices on television, which it said was biased against the Leftists.
The Parliament speaker has 15 days to call a special session on the request proposal which SYRIZA said is designed to divert attention from the government’s handling of a nearly out-of-control COVID-19 pandemic and protests against alleged police brutality and security forces for universities.
The center-left Movement for Change (KINAL) that is led by veterans of the now-defunct PASOK Socialists who served New Democracy, and the far-right populist extremist Greek Solution also back the proposal, said Kathimerini.
Businessman Christos Kalogritsas said Pappas offered his help in obtaining a license before the scheme was stopped on orders of a high administrative court as the plan unraveled.
If lawmakers find that there are grounds for the accusations leveled against him to be investigated further, they can vote to lift Pappas’ immunity from prosecution and he could face charges.
The case file sent to a Supreme Court prosecutor has reportedly turned up evidence indicating there should be a probe into the role of Kalogritsas in a 2016 license auction, the paper said earlier.
Kalogritsas accused Pappas, who was responsible for overseeing the licensing process, of “setting up” the competition to insure the businessman had the 3 million euro ($3.58 million) guarantee needed to enter the bidding process as a front for a pro-government TV station.
Kalogritsas also alleged that once the bid failed the government diverted the money to its own uses and not for the license but there’s been no proof nor where the money went.
In June 2020, some 11 months after New Democracy ousted the Leftists in snap elections, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said Pappas had to explain what was going on but never did.
Breaking from his all-out defense of Pappas after release of the secret tape made by Greek-Israeli Sabby Mionis that appeared to suggest that former alternate justice minister Dimitris Papangelopoulos wanted money, Tsipras said there should be a clarification.
Pappas, who earlier said the tape had been edited to incriminate him and that he wasn’t talking about Papangelopoulos in portions that discussed alleged bribery.
Pappas appeared to admit knowing that Papangelopoulos had his “own agenda” and was “making a lot of money” from backroom deals, or “outsourcing,” with the indication Papangelopoulos wanted a bribe from Mionis. It wasn’t said for what.
The tape was submitted to a parliamentary committee trying to determine Papangelopoulos interfered in a case in which SYRIZA said 10 rival politicians took bribes from the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis.
During a session of SYRIZA’s political council, Tsipras said Pappas should amplify what he meant when speaking, and cautioned him and his party members to watch what they say because their words could be revealed.
Tsipras also ripped the government and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, saying that, “Faced with such a ruthless system of power, all of us, and chiefly officials on the front line, must watch our every action and word,” the paper said.
Despite the light chiding of Pappas, Tsipras said his party is not corrupt and has integrity – during his 4 ½-year reign he blamed previous governments for being on the take.
But, he added that given the revelation that, “each of us must assume the responsibility for their mistakes, oversights and slip-ups” and don’t repeat them.
After being defiant, Pappas pulled back a bit and said he now takes responsibility for part of the “illegally obtained conversation,” indicating he now said what he said he didn’t say before backing off in the face of Tsipras’ call for him to explain what was going on.
Pappas said that after he said he wasn’t talking about bribery that what said didn’t reflect his true values and what he was doing was trying to calm down Papangelopoulos from being so cranked up.
“Mistakes in tone and substance were the pretext for attacks against us,” he said. The paper, citing sources not named, said Pappas was under pressure from other members of the political council for apparently embarrassing the party that has claimed it’s clean and above reproach.