The latest political furor in still bailout-dependent Greece made its way to Parliament on Monday, with the leftist-rightist coalition government clashing with the opposition over a controversial munitions deal with Saudi Arabia that has attracted intense scrutiny both inside the country and abroad.
In a marathon Parliament session convened to discuss a tabled question by main opposition New Democracy (ND), the party's president, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, laid the blame directly at the feet of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, charging that the latter is “covering up" for his defence minister, Panos Kammenos “because before the danger of losing your seat, you’ve defended …Mr. Kammenos …What we referred to as the Kammenos scandal is actually the Tsipras-Kammenos scandal. That’s what your presence here today confirmed.”
Kammenos is the leader of a small rightist-populist party, the Independent Greeks (AN.EL) that squeezed into Parliament in the past two elections and serves as the “strange bedfellows” junior partner with the radical leftist and previously anti-bailout SYRIZA party.
The root of the charges against the Tsipras government, and especially against Kammenos, is that an unsanctioned middleman attempted to act as the intermediary in a 66-million-euro deal between Athens and Riyadh. The agreement ostensibly aimed to supply surplus munitions and ordnance in Greek military stores to the Mideast state, whose military is currently involved in the Yemen civil war.
Along those lines, Mitsotakis asked why a government-to-government agreement needs a middleman, something, in fact, prohibited by Greek law. He also asked where the money is from the sale, or, if the sale was cancelled. Additionally, Mitsotakis and other opposition MPs demanded to know the exact amount of munitions set for sale, as conflicting reports point to 100,000 shells in one instance, and 300,000 in another.
“If the deal was completed then we’re waiting to see the money. If the agreement fell through then there’s a major issue of 66 million euros missing,” he said.
In reply, and speaking from Parliament’s podium on two occasions, Tsipras charged that the opposition, and especially ND, is trying to create a “para-state within the state in order to create a rift in the government’s moral standing.
Tsipras also blamed ND and “the mass media outlets that back you” of trying to create a conspiracy in order to deflect from issues that paint the opposition party in a negative light, mentioning a past Siemens kickbacks scandal and even the release of the so-called “Paradise Papers” this past month.
Tsipras was indirectly referring to the fact that Mitsotakis' spouse, Mareva Grabowski-Mitsotakis, owns half of an off-shore company in the Cayman Islands found in the massive volume of leaked financial documents, the "Paradise Papers".