The government appeared to escalate is public confrontation with businessman Vangelis Marinakis, a shipping magnate who also owns Olympiacos Football Club and an influential media group.
Earlier this week, Marinakis slammed the government over a non-paper distributed by the PM’s office, which called the businessman a drug trafficker. The shipowner and several associates are being investigated in connection with the highly publicized Noor 1 heroin smuggling case. However, Marinakis has not been convicted and continues to refuse all charges, while accusing government officials of conspiring to put him in prison.
Responding to the government non-paper, Marinakis said in an announcement that the government has “tried and irrevocably convicted the accused, offering him up to a public lynching over a case that the accused considers a conspiracy to personally harm him, his businesses, and his media outlets”. Marinakis also refuted the claims made in the non-paper that he has ties to main opposition New Democracy and its leader Kyriacos Mitsotakis. “I have met with Mr. Tsipras many times at the Maximos Mansion” Marinakis said as proof that he is not a government adversary.
Earlier this week, New Democracy sources commented that it is “unfathomable and unprecedented that the prime minister’s office calls a Greek citizen a ‘drug dealer’ before the court system has decided”, while the government spokesman, Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, merely said that a court verdict will determine whether the term “drug trafficker” was correct or not.
On Wednesday, the government and main opposition party engaged further in their dispute.
New Democracy launched an attack on the government over its public confrontation with Vangelis Marinakis. In an announcement, ND urged the government to tell the public how many times the Prime Minister has met with Vangelis Marinakis, as the businessman revealed in his own announcement.
The main opposition also listed a series of government actions that are telling of its corrupt practices: “…the farmland [used as collateral] for TV licenses, trips to Venezuela with offshore specialists, the favorable legislation for specific businessmen and tax amnesty extended to the barons of electronic gambling, are just a few examples of SYRIZA corruption. At the same time, even Judges Unions denounce the unprecedented interventions of the government in the justice system…”.
In response, the government issued a press release raising a series of questions addressed to the main opposition party. “Who channeled hundreds of thousands of euros to the company of Mareva Mitsotakis (the ND party leader’s wife) via offshore firms in 2017, and why?” the press release asks.
“New Democracy is involved in countless scandals; from the cases of Siemens and Mr. Chrisoforakos’s gifts to the KEELPNO scandal and Novartis, as well as the scandalous loans taken out by the party and several media businesses, including Mr. Mitsotakis’s “Chania Herald””, the government press release charges.
With regards to alleged meeting between Alexis Tsipras and Vangelis Marinakis, the press release notes: “…it doesn’t matter if the Prime Minister meets with businessmen upon their own request, but it does matter if he favors them or not in order to secure the support of their media. Which is exactly what Mr. Mitsotakis does. If the New Democracy president insists on finding out what was discussed during the meeting, it’s easy to do so. A phone call to his best man will suffice”.
Observers point out that the unprecedented government attack on the shipowner could be signaling that a snap election in 2018 is being mulled. The strong language used against Marinakis and the attempt to tie him to the main opposition New Democracy party, could be part of an effort to polarize the political scene ahead of an early election. In any case, it is yet another reminder of the government’s expressed intention to place the issue of tackling corruption at the top of the political debate and agenda…. / IBNA