THE HANDLING of the investigation by the House Institutions Committee into the banking collapse is fast degenerating into farce. On Wednesday the chairman of the committee Demetris Syllouris gave the names of three deputies – two of them retired – that had reached an arrangement with banks over loans they had taken out.
Syllouris said he had given the three names, because they belonged to the three individuals who had sent letters to the committee, each explaining the circumstances under which they had reached a settlement with the banks. He also made public the letters, which showed that none of the three had done anything irregular or had used their positions to secure preferential treatment. One of the deputies, a lawyer, had negotiated reduction of loan charges on behalf of a client while the serving deputy had sued the bank for cashing cheques with forged signatures.
A day before Syllouris had announced the three names arch-populist, Green deputy, Giorgos Perdikis had posted them on his Facebook page. Perdikis also posted the name of a former deputy, for a loan he had secured 11 years after he had left the legislature. He did not bother providing any of the explanations given by the four individuals he named and shamed, because this would undermine his posing as an anti-corruption campaigner.
The truth is that many individuals and businesses, over the years, have negotiated reductions in loans, because the banks made habit of imposing unjustified charges and extortionate interest on many of them. It was therefore standard practice for many to hire the services of a lawyer to negotiate a lower sum in settlement; deputies, many of whom were lawyers did exactly this. Now whether they used their position to secure a bigger reduction is a moot point. But the politicians that had entire loans written off by the banks, if there were any, would be a different case.
The Institutions Committee will decide next Tuesday whether it will include names in its final report. It is more than likely that it will decide against it, in which case, it would be seen to be covering up for politicians. On the other hand, giving names of deputies for engaging in a practice followed by many other individuals would be wrong.
The problem is that Syllouris has become a hostage of his own rhetoric. He had promised that his committee’s investigation would uncover everything and everyone, a claim he has been repeating recently. This was the type of populism he has been warning against in the last couple of days, after Perdikis’ so-called revelation.