On Monday the Alternate Minister of Administrative Reform George Katrougalos described as ‘absolutely false’ a report in ‘Vima’ newspaper according to which he signed contracts up until January the 27th 2015 – two days after SYRIZA’s election win - which would see him paid commissions via his former law firm for securing the re-hiring of suspended public employees.
Katrougalos, who was a practicing lawyer before becoming a cabinet minister is alleged to have signed several contracts stipulating that he receive a percentage of sacked civil servants’ monthly salaries in the event that their rehiring was secured.
Katrougalos has rejected that he ever stood to benefit from the re-hirings calling the report slanderous and unsubstantiated. Katrougalos said that he had ended his dealings with the law firm in question in June 2014 following his election to the European parliament, establishing his own law firm. He claims to have stopped practicing law officially following his swearing in as minister on January 27 of this year.
While To Vima claims to have documents backing up its claims it has yet to make these public.
“They have used fake evidence for the accusations,” he told TV channels today and added that if such a contract was found he would resign. He noted that if they did not apologize to him by Monday, he would file a lawsuit against ‘Vima” and German paper ‘Bild’, which reproduced the report.
The Athens Macedonian News Agency writes that the minister said the whole issue was staged and that the accusations had been fabricated by vested interests with the aim of undermining the government. He also stressed that he did not expect to get a single euro when those employees return to their posts.
In the meantime, government spokesman Gavril Sakellaridis in statements to Mega TV said that Katrougalos has already given clear explanations. "We are seeing a desperate…effort particularly on the part of the main opposition to invest in supposed questions of ethics of the government. The moral advantage that the government has cannot be affected by either New Democracy or PASOK ... We are not like them, we will not become like them, we leave the monopoly of corruption and vested interests to them," he said.
The government has so far stood by Katrougalos, noting that while he had signed contracts with laid off school guards before the European elections in May 2014, he would only be paid if their re-hiring was secured in the courts - and not if they were re-instated by law. Another case had to do with a salary dispute of an employee of the Salamis Naval Base, according to the government, which had nothing to do with civil servant layoffs.
However in a decision that raised eyebrows, a press conference planned by Katrougalos for this afternoon was postponed by the government.
The official explanation given was that the press conference was to be postponed ‘due to the visit of Alexis Tsipras to Germany.’ However it has been noted that the visit was not a surprise but had been scheduled long before Katrougalos’s press conference.
That has led some to speculate whether the government was reconsidering its support of Katrougalos, although another explanation is that with the intense focus on the case, the administration feared that the issue would overshadow the prime minister's meeting with Angela Merkel.