April 29 (Reuters) - Greek lawmakers on Wednesday issued an inconclusive finding in a bribe scandal that could force Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to call an early election as Greece struggles to cope with the global financial crisis. [ID:nLT959469].
During its five years in power, the government has been shaken by scandals ranging from controversial land swaps between the state and a wealthy monastery to suspect government bond sales to state-run pension funds.
Here are the main scandals that have rocked the government:
* FERRY CONTRACTS - April 2009:
Greek lawmakers decided to launch an investigation into a former minister’s involvement in a shipping scandal after prosecutors passed the case to parliament. Ruling party deputy Aristotle Pavlides denies any wrongdoing in the case, brought to light by a shipowner who testified that the minister’s aide demanded bribes to grant a contract to run subsidised Aegean island ferry routes.
* VATOPEDI SCANDAL - September 2008:
Merchant marine minister George Voulgarakis resigned amid mounting criticism from within his New Democracy party over property transactions, including a land swap between the state and the wealthy Vatopedi monastery where his wife acted as agent. He insisted no laws were broken but the finance ministry annulled the deal and a judicial investigation showed deputy ministers were involved in the land swap which media said cost taxpayers over 100 million euros ($131.9 million).
Parliament set up an investigating committee in October. The same day, one of the prime minister’s closest aides, Minister of State Theodore Roussopoulos, resigned over his suspected role in the land deals. In December, the parliamentary investigation failed to reach an agreement on who was responsible for the scandal and took no further steps.
* SEX, LIES AND DVDs - February 2008:
Former Culture Ministry General Secretary Christos Zahopoulos resigned and jumped from his fifth-floor balcony after a DVD showing him having sex with his female assistant was taken to the office of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. What media dubbed the “sex, lies and DVDs” scandal shook Greek society and cut the government majority to one deputy after the temporary resignation of an MP. Zahopoulos survived the fall.
* SIEMENS - May 2008:
Greece is investigating whether German engineering group Siemens (SIEGn.DE) bribed companies and officials to win deals including the security contract for the 2004 Olympics. A prosecutor has filed charges and an investigating judge has launched an inquiry. A German court convicted former Siemens executive Reinhard Siekaczek in July for his role in setting up slush funds used to win contracts. Siemens itself gave a tally of at least 1.3 billion euros in suspect payments booked as fees [ID:nL8682844].
*INDIAN WORKERS - December 2007:
Labour Minister Vassilis Magginas resigned after the Greek press said he employed an uninsured Indian family at his country home. The scandal came at a time of unpopular pension reforms fiercely opposed by labour unions. He denied any wrongdoing, saying the Indians were his guests.
* BONDS - March 2007:
A 280-million euro, 12-year structured government bond with a 6.25 percent coupon, issued in February 2007 by the Finance Ministry and underwritten by JP Morgan (JPM.N), passed through several brokers before ending up with state pension funds at inflated prices. Labour Minister Savvas Tsitourides was sacked and the deal reversed. Prosecutors have announced hundreds of charges from fraud to money laundering, but have not named any individuals. The investigation goes on.
* WIRE-TAPPING - February 2006:
In March 2006, the government revealed that more than 100 people, including Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, had their mobile phones tapped around the time of the Athens 2004 Olympics. A two-year judicial investigation into the so-called “Greek Watergate” was dropped in January when prosecutors said they were unable to find evidence leading to the culprits. (Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)