Europe

Greek former ministers face prosecution over land swaps

A monk walks towards the monastic community of Mount Athos. Photo: October 2008
Image caption The wealthy Vatopedi monastery, one of Greece's largest, lies in the male-only Mt Athos community

A Greek parliamentary committee has said five former conservative ministers should stand trial over a land swap scandal which shocked the country.

The five deny any wrongdoing over the deal, said to have cost the state some 100m euros (£87m; $138m).

Parliament is expected to meet next month to decide whether to refer the case to a court panel.

The move requires an absolute majority of 151 in the 300-strong assembly. The ruling Socialists have 157 MPs.

The case is known in Greece as the Vatopedi scandal, after the Greek Orthodox monastery on Mount Athos which received prime, state-owned real estate in exchange for much less valuable, rural land.

Lengthy investigation

On Monday, the special investigating parliamentary committee recommended in a report that the ex-ministers - all members of the conservative New Democracy party - should stand trial for alleged fraud and breach of duty.

Committee head Dimitris Tsironis told Greece's Mega TV that his members "acted according to our conscience".

If parliament endorses the recommendations, the case will go to a court panel.

It would then decide whether the case should be referred on to a special high court.

The report follows a lengthy investigation into the land swaps during the 2004-09 conservative administration.

Although no money changed hands, it is alleged that the state lost some 100m euros worth of land in the swaps intended to settle the monastery's land claims.

In 2008, two Greek ministers resigned over the scandal.

The 1,000-year-old Vatopedi monastery has also denied any wrongdoing.

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