In our new quest to plot the "grid of corruption" (remember Zachopoulos and Tsekou?), let's get down to the facts.
The players in this 'wild' scandal game are:
- The Vatopedi Monastery of Agion Oros
- Petros Doukas, vice minister
- Aggelos Basiakos, former minister
- Theodoros Roussopoulos, goverment press representative
- Mara Zacharea, journalist
- Giorgos Voulgarakis, minister
- Aikaterini Kelpeki, lawyer
- and finally...Kostas Karamanlis, Prime Minister
Briefly to present the facts:
- In 2002, the National Council of Public Estate, admits the Monastery of Vatopedi to be the legal owner of 25,000,000 square metres (!) on the lake of Vistonida
- In August of 2002, Vice Minister of Economy, accepts the former decision
- During the same year, the same Council decides that the Monastery is the legal owner of any land on the lake of Vistonida
- In 2003, Vice Minister of Economy signs the decision
- In 2005, the Legal Council of Greece, decides that the Minister of Rural Development is able to order the National Estate Company to exchange estate properties
- In 2005, the Minister of Rural Development applies his right and commands the National Estate Company to exchange properties with the Monastery in the area of Rodopi and Xanthi
- In 2006, the Minister of Rural Development and the Vice Minister of Economy, instruct the National Estate Company to exchange with the Monastery of Vatopedi, national properties (real estate built during Athens Olympics) for the lake of Vistonida
- The national properties get highly undervalued while the lake of Vistonida receives an outstanding overvalue
- In 2007, the exchanges take place
- The monastery sells Olympic properties to off-shores from Cyprus
The Vatopedi Monastery
This monastery (photo) is among the many monasteries and churches to be found on the Athos Mount, in the same peninsula. Mount Athos is independent from Greece and is a very famous visiting place, although only for men. The Vatopedi Monastery during the last years gathered around many Cypriots and is ruled by Εφραιμ(Efrem), a monk with distinct social connections. Efrem 'pioneered' a new type of religious activities. He used to transfer important sacred religious objects to highly powerful people (businessmen, prime ministers etc). This allegedly helped him create a very powerful social network (facebook is a joke).
The Vatopedi Monastery around 1998 started a crusade against the official state claiming ownership of numerous real estates and land. In the most infamous legal battles, the monastery backed up its allegations based on decisions from Byzantine Emperors, dating back to 1900!
In 2002, the National Council for Real Estate, recognized the monastery as the owner of 25,000,000 square metres, around the lake of Vistonida. However, to actually own it, the signature of a minister was needed.
Petros Doukas- Former Vice Minister of Economy
Petros Doukas (photo), now Vice Minister of External Affairs, was a Vice Minister of Economy, during the "hot" period. As a public figure, I think people like him. Calm and reasonable as a person, he didn't do anything to cause any trouble, despite his heavy political duties.
Mr Doukas is accused of having signed the infamous decision to hand the lake of Vistonida over to the monastery. From his side, he has denied all accusations. In his blog one can read: "I found out that from 1999 to 2003, the case was closed, and the lake of Vistonida belonged to the monastery of Vatopedi. The Council for Real Estate is under the Minister of Economy, but acts independetly, which means I do not influence a single member of it...The Minister of Rural Development decided to exhange properties with the monastery due to public pressure."
Aggelos Basiakos - Former Minister of Rural Development
Mr Basiakos(photo) was among the "legion" of the Prime Minister, a faithful and close partner. Mr Basiakos is accused of taking the action to exchange properties with the monastery. It should be noted that this right to give such orders was decided the same year by the Legal Council. At speed light, Mr Basiakos applied his 'legal' rights. At first, Mr Basiakos ordered for exchanges of appartments and houses and in 2006 co-decided with the Minister of Economy to exchange the Lake of Vistonida.
Mr Basiakos, of course , has denied all accusations. A very interesting fact is that the Vice Minister of Rural Development at that time, had resigned, and the reason was, as he now says, great political pressure to sign these decisions, to which he was strongly opposed against.
Former-journalist, Mr Roussopoulos(photo) is the invisible force that really governs Greek media today. He is very close to Prime Minister and enjoys complete support for whatever he does. Inside the government party, Mr Roussopoulos is considered an 'outlander', a man who immediately climbed up the party's stairs, but no serious objections were raised (until now) since he is a major factor of the party's resurrection. Among his many duties, Mr Roussopoulos distributes the multi-million national advertisement funds to TV and radio stations.
Mr Roussopoulos appears to have very strong relations with Efraim and the monastery of Vatopedi and also to be the owner of several luxury estates (that arose during his government duties), while in the annual report for politicians' wealth, he claims his wife as the prime income source...
A prominent journalist in Greece, having worked in many media. Recently, Mrs Zacharea left the Alpha TV stationa after long fights and joined several newspaper and radio media, not only as a journalist but also as a shareholder. It should be noted that Alpha TV was the one that researched for the monastery scandal and brought it to the public.
Mrs Zacharea is supposed to have good relationships with Efrem and the monastery of Vatopedi. In the photo you can see an interview she had with Efrem in 2006.
This man was brought up to be a politician. He recently faced heavy criticism for establishing private companies, transferring funds from Cyprus off-shore companies to avoid taxations. Mr Voulgarakis, now Minister of Mercantile Marine, has also served as a Minister of Interior. At the times when the deal was in full development, he was a Minister of Culture. Yes, this man is all-around..
Mr Voulgarakis is a misfortune. While Minister of Interior, the huge scandal of mobile phone interceptions broke out in 2007. Many high-level officials and even the Prime Minister, were tapped by an elaborate scam involving Vodafone and Ericsson Hellas. The tragedy escalated when a high-profile engineer of Vodafone, Costas Tsalikidis, commited "suicide" at the time interrogation was in progress. His family firmly and still insists it was a murder, but the case closed after a big fine on Vodafone Hellas.
At the time of the real estate scandal, Mr Voulgarakis was a Minister of Culture. His obscure role involves signing decisions of declaring land near Vistonida as non-archaeological sites. This allegedly made possible the exchange of this land with other state properties.
Now, Mr Voulgarakis has raised significant public discontent, after his tricks with offshore companies and Ltds, for tax evasion purposes, were revealed. He is now among the most wealthy Greek politicians(check out his watch in the photo), a state he reached only after he became one. Mr Voulgarakis was fairly insignificant as a professional and climbed up socially through his powerful connections and in-party activity. It is rumored that he will be soon removed from his government position.
Mrs Kelpeki was the lawyer representing the Greek state in the disgraceful estate exchanges. On the other side of the deal, Mr Kelpekis, brother of Mrs Kelpeki, represented the Vatopedi monastery! Even more, Mr Kelpekis, father of this great family, is the lawyer of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis!!
In a recent unprecented attack to...everybody, Mr Kelpekis (the ..godfather), threatened that he will fight back any attempt to bring town Mr Voulgarakis. In his words : "Many, many others have strong relations with the Monastery of Vatopedi, but not Mr Voulgarakis. Stay away from him because I know too much!". Wow.
What can we say...This man inherited a country at the age of 40. Being an insignificant member of the Parliament, from the day he was born, descending from the powerful political family in Greece, he didn't have to prove anything to become a Prime Minister. During his years, the country has faced one disaster after another: economy decadence, unemployment, poverty, huge fires, political unstability, and many, many scandals.
Mr Karamanlis appears to have strong relationships with the Mount of Athos. He has visited the Vatopedi Monastery several times and has personal relationships with Efrem. In summer of 2006 he spent 2 nights there, during his visit to Athos, which by protocol is off-schedule.
Now Solve the Puzzle
I tried to give a complete picture of the huge scandal that is unfolding right now in Greece. Now it is the time for you to solve the puzzle! It is tough but I will give some hints:
- Aggelos Basiakos was very close to the Mr Karamanlis, but he is now vanished from public affairs
- Mr Roussopoulos is married to Mrs Zacharea
- Mr Voulgarakis is married to Mrs Kelpeki