A controversial Greek minister whose been a "lightning rod" for opposition opprobrium and scathing media attacks over the recent period struck again - and with vengeance - on Monday evening, leaking a phone conversation with the Bank of Greece (BoG) governor to a pro-government media outlet and then commenting on social media.
Angered by an abrupt BoG inquiry into a 100K-euro consumer loan he received from non-systemic Attica Bank, by taking out a second home mortgage as a guarantee, Alternate Minister Pavlos Polakis telephoned BoG Gov. Yannis Stournaras earlier on Monday. He later confirmed that he recorded the conversation.
Polakis didn't reveal if his interlocutor, Stournaras, was aware that he was being recorded. Most legal experts on Monday night that commented on the extraordinary incident agreed that the action was illegal.
While first praising Stournaras for the high-profile review of his loan, he then accused the BoG of issuing a statement on his loan, something the central banker denied.
Afterwards, he pressed Stournaras to begin similar BoG reviews of loans and borrowing by political rivals, including a newspaper on Crete controlled by the family of main opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, as well as the Sunday weekly that "broke" the story of his hefty consumer loan - the high-circulation "Proto Thema".
When told that Greece's central bank cannot audit the country's four systemic banks without Single Supervisory Mechanism (SS) notification, Polakis, according to the leaked conversation he disseminated, replied:
"What are you telling me, Mr. Stournaras? That you can't check the banks that provided the loans that bankrupt the country, and brought the memorandums, and that you can only check the cooperative banks? What kind of central banker are you?" Polakis said, confusing "cooperative banks", in this case, with "non-systemic" banks, which is what Attica Bank is.
He also accused Stournaras of leaking the loan's existence to the press after being informed by his "associates" in Attica Bank, something that the central banker again flatly denied.
Stournaras has been a "thorn" in the side of the Tsipras government since the latter rose to power in January 2015.
In an initial response, main opposition New Democracy (ND) party charged that "there are no words left for anyone to describe the devastation that the Tsipras government is leading the country towards."