The Greek Government Conspiracy against the Central Banker — Tsipras: “I’ll drag Stournaras out kicking and screaming”

The Governor of the Bank of Greece Yannis Stournaras. © Bank of Greece The Governor of the Bank of Greece Yannis Stournaras. © Bank of Greece

 

THE ATHENS REVIEW OF BOOKS, ISSUE 102, JANUARY 2019

By MANOLIS VASILAKIS

 

 

The first thing I shall do as prime minister is demand Stournaras’s resignation. I will drag him from the central bank kicking and screaming if need be.[1]
Alexis Tsipras

 “… and any threat of closing down our banks and imposing capital controls would be met with unilateral haircuts of the ECB’s SMP bonds, with the activation of the parallel payment system and changes to the law governing the Central Bank of Greece in a manner that restored parliament’s sovereignty over it.[2]
Yanis Varoufakis

 

1.

The years-long paranoid campaign of terror waged by SYRIZA’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, in collaboration with willing pawns in the judiciary[3] as accomplices, against the Athens Review of Books (ARB) has lasted longer than any other attack the SYRIZANEL coalition has pursued in its nearly four years in power, with the sole exception, mutatis mutandis, of its persecution of the Governor of the Bank of Greece, Yannis Stournaras. In his case, of course, the campaign of harassment has been greater in scope and intensity because those involved have included the Prime Minister himself, numerous ministers and the party’s array of overt and covert state forces, especially in the judiciary and its deep state counterpart, who have continued to conspire against him under the guidance of “Rasputins”[4], male and female alike. They haven’t yet dared to storm the offices of the ARB (the only intrusion to date has been a digital one when the ARB site was hacked), as they did in the case of Stournaras’s wife in September 2016. The two cases are nonetheless linked through the person of Ioannis Mantzouranis, the perpetrators’ lawyer in both affairs and one of the three protagonists in the greatest political and economic scandal of the late 20th century[5].

It is impossible to recount in a single article all the instances of persecution to which the central banker has been subjected and which have exacted such a criminally high cost on the country. We will thus confine ourselves to several characteristic examples. With a dogged Stalinist devotion to the final objective, seasoned with a bit of neo-Karamanlism, SYRIZA and ANEL officials continue to write this lengthy chronicle of unrelenting intrigue, aided by the centers and shadow-centers of power at the disposal of a government coalition which has branded Yannis Stournaras Enemy of the People #1.

But why Stournaras? Because in his institutional role, the Governor of the Bank of Greece has served the Greece of Europe and the Eurozone, vigorously defended the independence of the Bank and, when necessary, told the bitter truth. If the Bank of Greece had fallen into the hands of the SYRIZA “freedom-fighters” during the ghastly period of war populism of 2015 (as in war communism) and the period of cynical populism that ensued after their New Economic Policy (NEP) ended in an abrupt about-face, there would have been no one and no institutional counterweight left to fend off the impending firestorm. Certainly not the President of the Republic, from whom the only thing one expects is for him to finish out his discredited tenure. Because he himself was among the prime instigators of the crisis who implemented their platform of populism by creating massive fiscal difficulties for the country. And because with his actions as President he continues to serve populism (as his recent essay, An Enemy of Representative Democracy: when the “economic” prevails over the “institutional”[6], confirms). This populist President continues to maintain that although the numbers are bad, people can still prosper, provided, of course, there are ministers who will employ the country’s masses to serve to its great wet-nurse, the Greek public sector, as he did in 2004-2009. He continues to rail against the “quasi-oligarchic governance of the European Union”, in contrast to Tsipras’s “democratic” chicanery of false hopes. The only powerful pillar of resistance that has safeguarded its autonomy and unwavering European orientation has been the Bank of Greece. It is the anchor that has kept the Ship of Fools in the Eurozone. And it has attracted all the hate and paranoia of the pirates who have been voted into power.

In the fantasies of this ruling troupe of illiterate obsessives, Stournaras “had the money”, indeed, he was probably concealing tons of cash. It was he who remained the great obstacle in their effort to wrest control of the major banks and he who prevented them from circumventing the control over the smaller banks. (See, See, for example, the recent episode with the President of the Attica Bank physically assaulting his Managing Director for refusing to finance the SYRIZA-controlled Kalogritsas Group[7].)

However, the first to target Stournaras (Oxford University PhD and Professor at the University of Athens) as an Enemy of the People, even before his appointment as Governor of the Bank of Greece, was that old collaborator of the Erich Honecker regime[8] and self-appointed Oxford and Harvard Professor, Nikos Kotzias, one of the two titans on whose shoulders Tsipras believes he stands—the other being the preposterous Yanis Varoufakis.

Perched atop the shoulders of these two deranged conspiracy theorists—the geo-strategist and former “The Greek Communist Party’s Suslov” on the one hand, and the great game theorist on the other (or at least that’s how he thought of them)—our young semi-literate firebrand believed he would change the global balance of power. The targeting of Stournaras by the Kotzias Factory of Lies later assumed dimensions of deranged obsession on the part of many SYRIZA officials, the most outrageous episodes of which starred Zoe Konstantopoulou in the role of Vyshinsky. In his book Debt Colony (2013), SYRIZA’s national-communist, anti-European manifesto, Kotzias forged and deployed monstrous lies against Stournaras, such as the one described below, precisely to justify the title of this rabid propaganda tool and its conspiracy theories of a Berlin-led “European Imperialist Triangle” at war with Greece: Merkel and Schäuble’s Germany “could impose, according to its tradition, ‘final solutions at the expense of Greece’.”[9] The local overseer in the Imperial Triangle’s “debt colony” had to acquire a name and face, and Kotzias chose Stournaras:

There was no moment more humiliating for the proponents of the bailout program than the time the Minister of Finance, Yannis Stournaras, not even realizing what he was saying and afraid he had lost Schäuble’s trust (who had been seen affectionately pinching Stournaras’s cheek in a video of an EcoFin meeting), stated: “I was upset when Schäuble called me and reproached me for saying in Parliament that debt could be extended (6 minutes into the interview, 6.12.12). This statement is an affront to Greece and the epitome of our country’s transformation into a “debt colony”.[10]

The truth, however, is an entirely different matter.[11]

Allow me to make a short digression to recount a personal experience that sheds light on SYRIZA’s mentality during the period of war populism. At a friend’s house in September 2014, I chanced upon two SYRIZA officials in swimsuits holding forth under a pine tree: the proponent of Althusserian folly, Aristidis Baltas, and super-revolutionary Venios Angelopoulos. After listening to their childish, bizarre rant about how they would handle the economic crisis once in government, I asked them what would they do without money if the European Central Bank turned off the tap. Their brilliant plan was to kick Stournaras out, break into the Mint and print three times the amount of money circulating in the entire EU. To flood Europe with cash. “But that’s illegal! Are you proposing we become international counterfeiters?” I asked. Their reply was that “by the time the EU can distinguish the counterfeit from the legitimate banknotes, we will have solved our problems and wreaked havoc in Europe.” If it weren’t for the thousands of human tragedies that the epidemic we know as the SYRIZA government has caused, it would be the most ridiculous chapter in the history of political movements and uprisings—and in the history of the comics as well.

One year later on July 30, 2015, Aristidis Baltas, by then Minister of Education, would state: “the war will be a long one, we have opened an irreparable rift in the Eurozone.” Just a month later, justifying his chief’s about-face, he would talk about “steady bearings, tactical retreat, strategic counter-attack.”

If the reasons for this ruthless dirty war against the Governor of the Bank of Greece are to be found in SYRIZA’s obsession with gaining control over the banking system and the flow of money in general—since Stournaras remained a formidable obstacle in their plans to do so—the methods and tactics used in the repeated attacks against him border on madness. And the truth is, most of these charlatans, opportunists, extortionists and rabble-rousers suffer from all kinds of disorders, the most innocuous being narcissism and the willfulness of those who are certain they possess the absolute Truth, who believe in their own lies but are continually disabused by reality.

I’m not referring here to the political attacks that began when he became Minister of Finance in July 2012, when the coalition government of New Democracy, PASOK and the Democratic Left (DIMAR) turned to Stournaras to assume the leadership of what, with the threat of imminent bankruptcy, had become the government’s most crucial ministry. The dirty war waged against the Governor of the Bank of Greece concerns instead the fabrications, slander and outright threats starting in December 2014, when they realized that Stournaras had no dilemma when choosing between his institutional role and political expedience and that he was unwilling to serve SYRIZA’s party agenda. Here we must highlight the role played by the malignant metastasis of the yellow journalism of Avriani that found expression in Kostas Vaxevanis’s Documento, a newspaper established with less than transparent funding from SYRIZA-building contractor Kalogritsas. Later, when SYRIZA sought to gain control over the television landscape with the unconstitutional Pappas law and its Kronjurist Ioannis Mantzouranis—notorious for his role in the Koutsogiorgas-Koskotas scandal—boasting that “by the middle of November [2016], we will have a new television landscape,” this same Kalogritsas would secure a broadcasting license with loans and pastureland that he did not own as collateral.

During this entire time, the Governor of the Bank of Greece was subjected to illegal commando raids, the presence of prosecutors in the offices of his wife Lina Nikolopoulou’s company, direct threats on his life, false accusations fabricated by callous conspirators in the basement of the Maximos Mansion and fed to government-friendly newspapers, obstructions to the execution of his duties and much more. Not to mention the outrageous and crass articles in Avgi and even crasser posts by the Prime Minister’s press officer, who exclaimed to the 200 or so readers of the party’s Pravda: “the time has come for Stournarexit.”

“That’s Stournaras for you. The man is an aberration. Because in the banana republic of the Memoranda, we have this banana-republic situation where the people have denounced the Memoranda but the country’s central banker is the man who as minister imposed them in the first place, come hell or high water. A man who not only lacks the decency to resign but has created a fifth column in the central bank. A man who has no qualms about being such a useful tool for our creditors’ extortion that removing him from office would constitute a casus belli […] Of course, if that were to happen, there are barons on the home front who would howl as well. Here the entire opposition is crying out for Zoe [Konstantopoulou] to resign because they say she offended him institutionally. Stournaras! As if. Stournaras isn’t offended by anything. It all comes down to skin…” (Avgi, June 19, 2015)[12].

This goes to prove that Stournaras may be a kind of appointed overseer but he’s a very powerful one, with the kind of immunity only monarchs ruling under the divine right of kings enjoyed. Even if we accept that the government has no choice but to turn lemons into lemonade, the way that “the others” both here and abroad have flagrantly supported his extraordinary power and reactionary garrulity—the man just won’t shut up—raises again the age-old question “who, in the end, rules this country”? (Avgi, February 15, 2017)[13]

As for the immunity he enjoys, all the right people—power-brokers, Europhiles, oligarchs, media magnates, creditors alike—have warned: Hands off! Which just shows that governments may come and go but Stournaras stays.”[14] (Avgi, April 11, 2017).

In May 2017 an attempt was made on the life of former Prime Minister Lucas Papademos when a package bomb exploded in his hands. Luckily, he survived, but Tsipras wouldn’t visit him in the hospital during his recovery. The incident prompted one SYRIZA official, Giorgos Filippakis, special secretary of the Soviet-minded Journalists Union of Athens Daily Newspapers, to write: “It wouldn’t bother me a bit if another bomb went off at Stournaras’s feet,”[15] while another SYRIZA journalist, Yannis Kanellakis, stated approvingly “I wouldn’t… stint on bombs that could go off at the feet of any Stournaras and other corrupt politician.”

The crowning example of the government conspirators’ inexhaustible supply of dirty tricks was the implication of the Governor’s name in the Novartis affair and his alleged bribery, allegations made by hooded witnesses who, in private discussions, have since recanted their testimony and are waiting until the day after the elections, when SYRIZA is no longer in power, to speak out. This government of conspirators hasn’t for a moment given up on its efforts to remove him from office or abandoned the use of mob-like methods and the services of former judges such as Vasiliki Thanou as well as vassals in active service. It goes on as it began.

 2.

Tsipras: “I’ll drag Stournaras out kicking and screaming”


“At this point Tsipras got angry: ‘the first thing I shall do as prime minister is demand Stournaras’s resignation. I will drag him from the central bank kicking and screaming if need be.’ Pappas offered a number of even more drastic solutions to the problem.”[16]

Later, when it became clear that kicking and shouting wasn’t going to work, they would try a gamut of drastic measures, including judicial conspiracies involving anonymous witnesses who had been blackmailed into giving false testimony.

This all took place shortly before the elections of January 2015 during a meeting of the “war cabinet” (as the protagonists themselves called the meetings that took place during the period of militant populism) between Alexis Tsipras, Yannis Dragasakis, Euclid Tsakalotos and Nikos Pappas. Varoufakis advanced a conspiracy theory in which the Governor of the Bank of Greece was presumably setting a trap with the ECB to shut down the banks the day SYRIZA was elected.

The day after they won power, I warned them, Mario Draghi would call them with the news that, as previously announced, the ECB must deny Greece’s banks liquidity, effective immediately. The ECB was creating the conditions necessary to close down the banks without any warning or reason just as Syriza was taking over.[17]

This is why it was so important for SYRIZA, once in power, to remove the “’traitorous” Yannis Stournaras from the Bank of Greece, since in their eyes he was Draghi’s man (and Schäuble’s, too, of course). Elsewhere Varoufakis writes:

For months before we had won the general election, Alexis and his team had considered Governor Stournaras an obstacle to a Syriza government. Rightly so. Former Prime Minister Samaras had shifted Stournaras from the finance ministry to the governorship of the central bank precisely in order to undermine a possible Syriza administration. Alexis had repeatedly told me and others that removing Stournaras was his top priority. Ironically, I had advised moderation and tempered his animosity towards Stournaras, pointing out that the government could not remove the governor of the Bank of Greece without a major clash with the ECB’s executive council. For as long as the ECB negotiated with us in good faith, I argued, we needed to show respect for its Greek branch – although if they closed down our banks and tried to overthrow our democratically elected government, then obviously all bets were off.[18]

From the start, the SYRIZANEL government proved itself averse to any kind of independent public authority or liberal institution. They desperately wanted someone else in Stournaras’s position. For many, the institutional safeguard of an independent Central Bank was the final and most powerful impediment in the way of SYRIZA’s campaign to solidify its regime. “They have the government but not the power.”[19] In other words, they didn’t feel they could do whatever they pleased. As the Prime Minister said[20], there were “institutional obstacles” to overcome. They had succeeded in hobbling the judiciary by appointing Vasiliki Thanou in the middle of the night to legitimize the blatantly illegal ballot for the referendum sham. Every action she took since then amounted to a violation of the Constitution. She was president of the country’s Supreme Court until they handed it over to Vasilis Peppas following written tests of subservience. However, the “institutional obstacle” they could not surmount was the Bank of Greece.

The Bank of Greece’s pillar of independence rests in part on the term of office of its governor, which extends beyond the electoral cycle. Yannis Stournaras’s term ends in 2020; the only statutory means at the government’s disposal to remove the irksome occupant of Omirou Street is to pursue him through the courts and secure his conviction. The government has thus turned their guns in this direction, with the help of a Stalinist, deep-state propaganda mechanism and judges, past and present, willing to violate their oath of office.

3.

A Brief Timeline of Events

2014: The “enemy” is at the gates
Yannis Stournaras’s relations as Governor of the Bank of Greece with SYRIZA were strained from the very start. On June 11, 2014, before the ink dried on the recommendation submitted by the Bank’s General Council to the Ministerial Council nominating Stournaras as Governor, SYRIZA quickly let it be known that the next government would not be bound by the decision.

December 2014: The Appeal for Consensus—an Institutional Anomaly!
The first crisis erupts with Yannis Stournaras’s dramatic intervention at an event organized by the Bank of Greece to commemorate the late Professor Xenophon Zolotas. SYRIZA had decided to leverage the election of the President of the Republic to precipitate early parliamentary elections. During his address, the Governor of the Bank of Greece warns:

“The situation in recent days has reached alarming dimensions. Liquidity in the market is rapidly drying up, not only threatening to reverse the economic growth path that has just begun but also running the risk of irreparable damage to the Greek economy.” He calls on the members of Parliament to take this grave and imminent danger into account when making decisions and appeals to the political parties to work together to carry out needed reforms. SYRIZA’s reaction is fierce, speaking of “yet another institutional anomaly on the part of the Governor of the Bank of Greece.” It accuses him of “deploying terror tactics”, that “with his inflammatory remarks he is undermining the stability of the financial system… simply to cover up his own ambitions and appear ‘more Catholic than the Pope’,” and ends with the warning: “the responsibilities are grave and people will be held accountable.”[21]

2015 The country poised on razor’s edge
The year—a fateful one as it turned out—begins with SYRIZA’s victory in the January elections. The government embarks on its “proud” course of negotiations with the very first meeting between the Minister of Finance, Yanis Varoufakis, and Jeroen Dijsselboem, the head of the Eurogroup, who uttered the famous remark: “You’ve just killed the troika. And without the troika you’re on your own.” The Governor of the Central Bank tries to repair the damage. The Bank of Greece acts to complete the issuance of T-bills in the amount of €625 mil., while Stournaras hurriedly meets with Yannis Dragasakis on two occasions in an effort to reassure the public, who are withdrawing their savings after the ECB revoked its waiver on Greek bonds with the upcoming end of the Adjustment Program.

During a meeting of the ECB’s Governing Council in Cyprus in March 2014, Mario Draghi sends a clear message to the Greek government regarding the stability of the Greek banking system. Yannis Stournaras, who took part in the meeting, rushes to brief the Prime Minister immediately upon his return to Athens.

March 2015 – “He wants to be Prime Minister”
As it becomes increasingly clear that negotiations are deadlocked, the government seeks to deflect attention with the usual scapegoat and mobilizes its communications mechanisms to launch an all-out assault against Stournaras.

In a front-page article in a pro-government newspaper, it insinuates that the Bank of Greece is undermining the government and reveals the contents of an email message of an associate of Stournaras’s that is highly critical of the government’s actions. Government officials and SYRIZA party members demand Stournaras’s resignation, while SYRIZA’s spokesperson for the first time officially accuses the Governor of the Bank of Greece of wanting to become Prime Minister, adding that he has not been cooperating with the government. Even the Prime Minister seeks to shift the blame from his government to Stournaras, stating “the Governor of the Bank of Greece will be judged by his ability to ensure that the banking system functions properly and safely. This is a serious responsibility and he will be judged accordingly.” The European Central Bank lends Stournaras its support, stating that the autonomy of the Bank of Greece is of utmost importance. Under attack from all sides of the government, Stournaras responds in keeping with his institutional role by working to ensure the payment of an IMF installment, thus averting a credit event.

 
 
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The Governor of the Bank of Greece Yannis Stournaras with the President of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi. © Thierry Tronnel / Corbis via Getty Images / Ideal Image

June 2015 – Zoe Konstantopoulou Enraged – Exam period begins
Among the most insane events of the political scene of 2015 are those involving Zoe Konstantopoulou and her attacks on Yannis Stournaras. The Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament makes use of every institutional means at her disposal to harm whomever she considers a political opponent of SYRIZA. In the months and years that follow, Yannis Stournaras will become a target of investigation of the parliamentary investigative committee on the Memorandum, the investigative committee on the out-of-court settlement with Siemens, the “Committee on the Truth about the Public Debt”, the investigative committee on party financing and the mass media, and the investigative committee on the Novartis affair.

The madness culminates in the dramatic summer of 2015. In the midst of the most crucial phase of negotiations with the country’s creditors, an enraged Konstantopoulou calls the Governor of the Bank of Greece before Parliament to account for his “crimes”. Stournaras suggests dates when he’ll be in Athens and not in Frankfurt with the ECB’s General Council. But Konstantopoulou, now at fever pitch, calls him to appear before a new committee to answer questions about Siemens and more broadly about the operation of the Central Bank. Declining her request to appear, Stournaras reminds her of the critical nature of the current situation and the daily video conferences he has with the ECB to secure liquidity for the Greek banks. In a moment of madness, she summons him on the most crucial day in the country’s negotiations with its creditors and threatens that if he doesn’t appear she’ll compel him by force to testify. The ruthless and irresponsible Tsipras once told Konstantopoulou “if I want to drive them all crazy, I’ll make you Speaker of Parliament.” And he did!

The Bank of Greece publishes its Monetary Policy Report. Faced with a country on the brink of disaster, thanks to the revolutionary madness of the group of reckless people in government, the Governor of the Bank of Greece rightly warns that “the breakdown in negotiations will be the beginning of a painful trajectory that will lead first to bankruptcy and end with the country’s exit from the Eurozone and quite possibly from the European Union.”[22] In an unprecedented move, the Speaker of Parliament sends back the Central Bank’s Report as unacceptable on the pretext that it was submitted in electronic and not printed form. SYRIZA issues a statement alleging that Stournaras has not only breached the limits of his institutional role but also contributed to severely curtailing the government’s leeway in the negotiations. At the same time, SYRIZA MP Rachil Makri files a complaint against the Governor of the Bank of Greece with the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

July 2015 – Operation “Mint”
The period of war populism culminates in the illegal Greek bailout referendum, in which the “No” vote secures a resounding 61.3% share of the ballots cast. This will be followed by Tsipras’s 17-hour “negotiations” and then, as the “No” vote is converted into “Yes!”, by the entry of “kolotoumba” (somersault) in the international lexicon of political terms.

On July 15th, the faint outlines come to light of the plan to break into the Mint, which holds the Bank of Greece’s reserves, and to oust, of course, Yannis Stournaras from the leadership of the Bank of Greece. After the failure and abandonment of this criminal scheme, which the members of the “War Cabinet” headed by Tsipras and Varoufakis had discussed in concert and approved, they laid the blame on their naivest colleague, Panagiotis Lafazanis, who was daft enough to shoulder this “revolutionary” honor. However, in his book, Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice[23], James K. Galbraith, who served as their collaborator and took part in these discussions, provides details of many of the elements of the plan that this dysfunctional band had hatched for the transition to the “New Drachma”. The book is important evidence in the case-file of the monumental crime these government conspirators perpetrated against the country:

The only problem, which we never solved sensibly, is to find paper that will work quickly in the ATMs, that will be hard to counterfeit, and that will be readily accepted as money by the population. But the obvious solution has been in front of us all along: stamped euro notes. All you need is a stamping machine. It could even be done by hand; the stamp doesn’t need to be fancy.[24]

The pirates estimated that there were 19 billion euros of the ECB kept under guard in Stournaras’ fort, that is the Mint, which they could “expropriate” without being accused of robbery!

So long as the notes are in the Bank of Greece, they are not worth nineteen billion. They are not money until released to the banking system. What are they? Just fancy paper. The price of the paper and printing is all they are worth. By converting them with a stamp to New Drachma, Greece would have done nothing material to the ECB; it can easily reimburse the printing costs. The New Drachma, stamped from euro notes, can go directly into the ATMs, and they can be restocked overnight or perhaps on a weekend. Initial supply problem solved. [25]

Unfortunately, there is no reference in the records of this Comintern of Dunces to indicate how they planned to convert euro coins into New Drachma ones; were they intending perhaps to set up a foundry in Zefyri[26] and melt them down?

The “War Cabinet’s” plan was abandoned in the fateful summer of 2015, not because Tsipras realized what his self-deception would cost the nation—€86 billion according to Yannis Stournaras, €100 billion according to the head of the ESM Klaus Regling[27]—but because, whatever his state of mind, he was fully aware of the potential consequences and feared that the theft of ECB money—this was not like the university sit-ins he once could stage without fear of reprisal—would lead to the country’s complete isolation. In the words of his collaborator, Tsipras feared that they would meet the same fate as the “Six” (5 politicians and 1 military officer) who were held accountable and executed after the Asia Minor Disaster in 1922:

At that point Alexis confessed to something I had not anticipated. He told me that he feared a ‘Goudi’ fate awaited us if we persevered – a reference to the execution of six politicians and military leaders in 1922. I laughed this off, saying that if they executed us after we had won 61.3 per cent of the vote, our place in history would be guaranteed. Alexis then began to insinuate that something like a coup might take place, telling me that the president of the republic, Stournaras, the intelligence services and members of our government were in a ‘readied state’. Again I fended him off: ‘Let them do their worst! Do you realize what 61.3 per cent means?’[28]

The leading man in this troupe of “War Cabinet” players, Alexis Tsipras, explained in an interview he gave on July 30, 2015 that the pact between Tsakalotos and Dijsselboem was something like the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact”

First of all, and I said this in Parliament, I see this as a Pyrrhic victory for our creditors and EU partners, a great moral victory for Greece and its government of the Left and a painful compromise in its economic and political dimensions. Compromises, you know, are a part and parcel of political reality and revolutionary tactics. Lenin was the first to talk about compromises in his book Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder[29], where he devotes considerable space to explaining how compromises are part of revolutionary tactics. Indeed, at one point he says that when a thief comes and threatens you at gunpoint for “your money or your life”, what should you, as a revolutionary, do? Do you give up your life? Or do you give him your money, so that you can go on living and continue the struggle? But giving him the money is a pathetic compromise and then would you become the thief’s accomplice and share in his responsibility? That’s what Lenin said then. So, you see, we are facing a coercive dilemma…”[30]

Nonetheless, he went on to say, “we, a small country with a left-wing government, are creating the first cracks in the Eurozone’s neo-liberal hegemony.[31]


The government finalizes its… “360° turnaround”[32] with a Cabinet reshuffle, the approval of the Third Economic Adjustment Program and, in September 2015, early elections, which it wins with the ballots of undeserving voters, despite what happened in the awful summer of 2015, when people were lining up (sovietically) outside the ATMs to withdraw 60 euros.

The government’s relations with the troika, now called “the Institutions”, finally enter more placid waters. Mario Draghi takes advantage of the situation to make clear that:

As a member of the Eurosystem, the Bank of Greece must be independent from any political influence and pressure, and its actions should not be guided by political considerations. In this regard, Yannis Stournaras has managed to protect the authority, the independence and the status of his institution amid very challenging conditions[33].

In October, Stournaras briefs the Prime Minister on the recapitalization of the banks and non-performing loans and on November 24th hosts a working lunch at the Bank. It will be quite a while before they meet again, as the temporary ceasefire on the battlefront between the government and the head of the Bank of Greece does not last for long.

The disclosures on the plan to occupy the Mint that the central banker makes during his interview with Alexis Papahelas on SKAI TV in January 2016 (despite the scanty information at his disposal), along with the warning he was expected to make in his Report in February to finalize the compliance report for the Economic Adjustment Program, were embarrassing for the government. They needed his help for the negotiations. Indeed, he was the one to whom they turned to pull their chestnuts out of the fire whenever things got difficult, as when they called him to the Hilton Hotel at three in the morning to help them in their negotiations with the country’s institutional partners.

A new crisis is about to break out, but before it does, the SYRIZANEL government suffers their arguably greatest strategic defeat with the issue of the broadcasting licenses.

The government’s effort to gain control over the television communications environment collapses in the face of the “institutional barrier” of the Council of State, despite the government’s machinations and the assistance of Kronjurist Ioannis Mantzouranis, who they seem to have thought had gained the requisite know-how from his involvement in the Koutsogiorgas-Koskotas scandal. Among SYRIZA’s chosen few are businessmen Christos Kalogritsas and Ivan Savvidis. For the first time, concerns are voiced about the existence of para-institutional forces of the kind found in regimes like Maduro’s.

September 2016 – Unlawful Entry
Attica Bank came under the scrutiny of the regulatory authorities as early as 2015, following the results of the stress test. Among the evidence under investigation is reportedly the Bank’s privileged relations with the Kalogritsas Group, which has been receiving state contracts after SYRIZA split up the Ministry of Finance, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism and appointed Christos Spritzis, former president of the Technical Chamber of Greece and a major shareholder in the bank, as Minister of Public Works. The investigation was completed in 2016. On the morning of September 15th, a few hours before the Bank of Greece is to disband the Attica Bank’s Board of Directors, the financial police, without due authorization, force their way into Yannis Stournaras’s wife’s firm with regard to the “KEELPNO” (Hellenic Center for Disease Control & Prevention) affair. Stournaras and his wife refuse to be intimidated. The Governor of the Bank of Greece calls the Prime Minister himself to protest but Tsipras denies having any knowledge of the incident. Two days later, the central banker crosses the threshold of the Maximos Mansion after a long hiatus to meet with the Prime Minister in person.

New Democracy is quick to defend Stournaras’s wife. They urge him to continue his investigations into Attica Bank but also demand that the public prosecutor’s office

show the same zeal they exhibited in the case of Stournaras’s wife and finally investigate Panos Kammenos’s accusations that slush funds and coercion were used to secure the coveted broadcasting license for his best-man and new TV magnate Kalogritsas.[34]

Despite extensive investigations carried out by various state agencies over the course of two and a half years, no incriminating evidence has been found. Nonetheless, the hard disks they confiscated have not yet been returned.

October 2016 –The target: control of the banks
In October, Stournaras is called before the parliament’s investigative committee on party financing and the mass media, where he is subjected to an all-out attack on everything from the imposition of capital controls to the KEEPLNO affair. Articles attacking him begin to proliferate (always in the 3 – 4 newspapers of the pro-government press), some going as far as to speak about a “Stournaras coup” to allegedly gain control of the Greek banks and replace their executive management. His detractors naturally “forget” to mention that the four major Greek banks are mainly overseen by the ECB’s Single Supervisory Mechanism headed by Danièle Nouy. Towards the end of the year, the first articles hinting at friction within the Central Bank begin to appear, with SYRIZA party officials and activists within the Bank of Greece taking part in the coalition of forces ranged against Stournaras.

“Documents” from the Pasturelands
As 2017 begins, the central banker’s wife again finds herself in the crosshairs of the modern-day version of the yellow-press rag Avriani, the newspaper” Documento, which was founded by building constructor Kalogritsas with pastureland as collateral and Kostas Vaxevanis as its chief goatherd. The “newspaper” refers to “a love affair between the Stournaras couple and the pharmaceutical industry”, citing Yannis Stournaras’s presence, despite his lack of expertise in pharmaceuticals, as an invited speaker at industry events and the sponsorships that his wife’s firm allegedly received from pharmaceutical companies. Lina Nikolopoulou sues Vaxevanis for libel.

The case triggers a barrage of negative front-page articles in the “newspaper”. Once again, Vaxevanis’s lawyer, Ioannis Mantzouranis, and the Neanderthal symbol of the Tsipras administration, Deputy Minister of Health Pavlos Polakis, outdo themselves. To believe the things being written, Stournaras was running a scam operation with the capital controls, doing sleazy business with big pharma, holding back the country’s return to the capital markets, abetting tax evaders and joining the ranks of the “I’m Not Paying” movement, squashing the asset declaration for his pool and selectively leaking information that negatively impacted the banks and the Greek economy. As expected, the “newspaper” was supported with statements from government and party officials, including Christos Spirtzis, the General Secretary of SYRIZA’s Central Committee, Panagiotis Rigas, and government spokesperson Dimitris Tzanakopoulos. But Polakis assumes the leading role, with his line, “resign and get out, you has-been loser, the Memoranda are over, don’t set your heart on a new one…” showing him at his most restrained.

At this point, I must point out the admirable bravery the Governor’s wife showed in a country where cowardice abounds.

2018 – The Novartis Show
2018 begins with the Macedonian question at the forefront of attention. The government’s handling of the issue runs into unexpectedly fierce public resistance, complicating matters for its far-right coalition partner ANEL and its leader Panos Kammenos. Unnerved by Sunday’s mass demonstration of February 4th, the government hastens to announce the following day that part of the investigation into the Novartis affair being conducted by the Public Prosecutor’s Office has been completed, with allegations made by court officers the previous Friday appearing in Documento’s “pastureland” Case files concerning two former prime ministers and eight former ministers are sent to Parliament. Among the ministers in question is the convenient target, Yannis Stournaras, who from the outset spoke about “a frame-up aimed at specific political targets.”[35] In the subsequent episodes of this series that followed, unfounded rumors are circulated claiming that Stournaras’s bank accounts had been frozen and it is revealed that among the dozens of studies he prepared as a private-sector analyst was one regarding Novartis.

The extraordinary address made by the Governor of the Bank of Greece before the plenary session of the Greek Parliament has not been given the attention it deserves by the largely government-dependent press. In this speech, Stournaras makes the following accusation:

[I]f it went ahead with an investigation and called the protected witnesses, this would reveal the falseness of testimonies, the total lack of evidence, the witnesses’ pending issues with Justice and/or the tax authorities, the invalidity of the witness protection status, the unbearable pressure exerted on the witnesses to testify as they did, and would also reveal the masterminds of the scheme and, ultimately, the frame-up.

It would be revealed that, rather than the biggest scandal, we are in front of the biggest frame-up that this country has seen since the restoration of Democracy in 1974. […]

This is something without precedent in the developed world: based on incoherent testimonies, given under pressure or even extortion by three anonymous witnesses enjoying a questionable protection status and having pending issues with Justice and/or the tax authorities, and without evidence or even indications, a parliamentary proceeding has been opened against ten selected persons, current and former holders of political office, including two former Prime Ministers, their bank accounts as well as those of their family members are opened and the persons themselves are vilified and pilloried. […]

To prevent this from happening, the witnesses must be immediately unveiled, their testimonies scrutinised, checking whether some of them have been or continue to be extorted, and the perpetrators and, most importantly, the instigators of this monstrosity have to be punished.[36]

On April 26, 2018, in response to a letter sent him by MEP Stelios Kouloglou, Mario Draghi[37] intervenes to support Stournaras, noting in conclusion:

In addition, the ECB observes that the presumption of innocence, a fundamental right protected by Article 48(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, applies to any NCB Governor. Finally, if an NCB Governor were unlawfully relieved from office, the Governing Council of the ECB would have the right to challenge the relevant national decision by referring it to the Court of Justice of the European Union on the grounds of infringement of the Treaty or of any rule of law relating to its application.[38]

The Dispute Surrounding the Precautionary Credit Line
According to his critics in the government, Yannis Stournaras’s most recent “coup”, planned with the help of Mario Draghi, was to hinder the country’s return to the global financial markets. The Governor of the Bank of Greece had spoken openly about the need for a stabilization instrument during the transitional period after the Economic Adjustment Program ended. Indeed, the existence of such an instrument would be crucial in ensuring that the country did not lose its waiver, which affects the borrowing costs of the Greek banks, the Greek state, businesses and households.

For the government, however, there was no room for anything that could cast a shadow on its narrative of a “clean exit”. Tsipras’s bullies lashed out; the threats voiced by Minister Polakis on August 19, 2018 made little impression:

STOURNARAS!!!

Seeing as today, however upset you get…

We don’t need your projections—or your advice, either!!

The only service you can render this country now is to RESIGN…

You are part of the system that bankrupted the country, the system that got us into the bailout programs and slashed wages and benefits, while you and the rest of the elite got rich….

You’ve done enough damage. GET UP AND LEAVE AND MAKE SURE WE NEVER HEAR FROM YOU AGAIN…

Two days later in his address to the nation from Ithaki, the Prime Minister found room among his usual lies and divisive discourse to attack Lucas Papademos and Yannis Stournaras as “enemies of the people”:

Bankers became prime ministers and ministers became bankers. […] A country in a permanent state of emergency. And a people, however, who never accepted the fate that the powerful reserved for them. And who started a new chapter of resistance.”[39]

No mercy for the bankers! They couldn’t shoot Stournaras. Lucas Papademos was targeted and shot without hindrance, and then was threatened again. But our reckless, small-minded Prime Minister presses on.

After insinuating that Stournaras’s insistence on a precautionary credit line was prompted by a political agenda, government officials escalated their attacks against the Governor of the Bank of Greece once the agreement with the Eurogroup was reached.

In one of his many hostile statements, government spokesperson Dimitris Tzanakopoulos stressed—as per Tsipras’s instructions—that “when Mr. Stournaras shouldn’t speak, he does and does so politically—he wanted to shackle the country with the bonds of a new bailout program—and when he should speak, he doesn’t. (October 8, 2018). The secretary of the SYRIZA parliamentary group stated that “the central banker is obliged to act within the framework set by the prime minister,” because “he is appointed by the prime minister, not elected.” (June 24, 2018). Limitations of space prevent us from listing the countless unethical attacks that Nikos Pappas, Tsipras’s very own Koutsogiorgas, leveled against Stournaras, including when—and even if—the Governor of the Bank of Greece had the right to speak.

Once again, Stournaras responded in a way that was entirely keeping with his institutional role. In its Monetary Policy Report, the Bank of Greece estimated that the country’s short- and medium-term debt was viable, while its long-term debt appeared to be viable but only under the assumption that budgetary adjustments and reforms continued. Greece, as ECM President Mario Draghi had pointed out, would lose its waiver on bonds on August 21st and its eligibility for inclusion in the quantitative easement (QE) program.

But we already know who’s at fault! Yannis Stournaras must pay the price for casting doubt on the myth of the “clean exit”[40].

The foregoing account is certainly material for a future historian, but before then we believe that much of it is also a matter for an honest prosecutor today.

 4.

ADDENDUM


The article was finished on December 23, 2018. On January 2, 2019, we learned about the intense pressure and coercion judicial authorities were using on one of the “protected witnesses”, Nikos Maniadakis, professor at the National School of Public Health. As Maniadakis revealed to Proto Thema and on SKAI TV, they were trying to force him into testifying that Antonis Samaras, Yannis Stournaras and Adonis Georgiadis had accepted kickbacks. When he refused to incriminate them, the “protected witness” found himself facing the kind of trumped up charges one finds in banana republics. The charges made by the Governor of the Bank of Greece to Parliament on May 18, 2018 were confirmed. The entire text of his address is published in the pages that follow.

This is not the first time that a ring of corrupt judges is being dismantled (though they were called “para-judicial” networks, as if the perpetrators weren’t judges themselves), but those were cases of judges using the courts for their own benefit. This time, however, it is clear that the scheme was set up by the government itself, to be implemented with the help of cooperative judges. It was much in keeping with the “Polakis Doctrine”, which takes its name from the man who, speaking per procurationem, once said “the only way we’ll win the election is if we throw certain politicians in prison.” All of this, of course, is a brazen distortion of our political system. Their audacity is such that they coerced the witness in public on November 11, 2018, from the pages of Documento, the newspaper Kalogritsas launched with Vaxevanis: “anti-corruption prosecutors… may, if the witness fails at any time to honor his obligation to disclose what he knows, revoke the protection which he requested and which the Greek judicial authorities gave him on the assumption that he would “speak”, and charge him as a defendant under his true identity.[41]” Yet more evidence of the cooperation between the “Public Prosecutor’s Office [against] Corruption” and Documento, entitled “Novartis: judgment time for the two-faced protected witness”. As Yannis Stournaras had pointed out before Parliament, “rather than the biggest scandal, we are facing the biggest frame-up that this country has seen since the restoration of Democracy in 1974.” Except that this one was organized by the SYRIZANEL government, with the requisite cooperation of corrupt court officers.

The time has urgently come to talk about corruption and catharsis in the Greek judicial system, about the ring of dishonest judges and perjurers. About the unprecedented enslavement of the judiciary that this ruthless government has attempted and the mob tactics it employs. Let us not forget that every anti-democratic aberration that Greece has endured took place with the cooperation and backing of corrupt and pliable judges.

January 2, 2019

Manolis Vasilakis is chief editor of the Athens Review of Books.

 


 

 

 

 

[1] Yanis Varoufakis, Adults in the Room, The Bodley Head, London 2017, p. 84.

[2] Ibid. p. 270. See his description of the “War Cabinet” meeting of February 18, 2015, pp. 270-271: “They all agreed—Pappas and Alexis enthusiastically, Dragasakis with a non-committal nod, Sagias with a helpful remember that the ECB’s SMP bonds were the last sliver of Greece’s public debt still under the jurisdiction of Greek law, which meant that any challenge to our decision to haircut them unilaterally would be heard not in a hostile London or New York court but in the Greek courts. Over the next four months, as the liquidity squeeze grew tighter and threats of bank closures and capital controls mounted, I would regularly remind Alexis and the war cabinet of this decision. Every time I did so, he and they would confirm their commitment to it.”

[3] Neue Zürcher Zeitung, December 15, 2018, https://bit.ly/2S4xkph

[4] Quoting former Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Eleni Raikou, speaking in reference to Deputy Minister of Justice Dimitris Papaggelopoulos.

[5] See «Oliga peri tou ektelesti Mantzourani…» [“A Bit About Mantzouranis the Executioner”] at https://bit.ly/2RePS9i

[6] Gutenberg Books, 2018, published “with the support of the Onassis Foundation”, that is, of the populists who got Cavafy committed to a mental asylum, acquiring archives to which they had no legal title.

[7] https://bit.ly/2LxiMfF

[8] N. Kotzias co-authored the propagandist book Der autonome Intellekt (The Autonomous [sic] Mind) under the supervision of Manfred Buhr, Head of Ideological Propaganda in Erich Honecker’s regime in East Germany and high-ranking Stasi agent (known by the code name “Rehbein” – “Deerfoot”). The book was published by the East German state Communist Party publishing house Akademie Verlag in 1976.

[9] N. Kotzias, Apikia Chreous [Debt Colony], Pataki, Athens 2013, p. 19.

[10] Ibid. p. 407.

[11] The truth is he deliberately distorted what Stournaras said to Alexis Papahelas during the closing minutes (1:11:28) of his interview on SKAI on December 4, 2015. He even misstates the date and the time so that if someone wanted to check the video they wouldn’t be able to easily locate the extract. Stournaras said, verbatim:

--It was the day I told parliament, during a discussion we had in the morning, that we would get the extension. My secretary called to tell me that Schäuble urgently wanted to talk to me. And so I called him.

“Yannis, why did you do that? We should have talked.”

I said “What, we didn’t get it?”. “No,” he said, “It’s the Bundestag.” And he tells me “Be careful, because what you’ve done is very dangerous.” Naturally I was upset, because our discussion covered a lot of other issues and lasted a long time.

(See the video of the interview at https://youtu.be/nsMgw2uYbH4).

[12] Avgi, June 19, 2015. The Stalinist in question was the Editor of Rizospastis, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Greece, at the time of the Chernobyl disaster. He urged readers not to be afraid to eat lettuce and other vegetables because it was all imperialist propaganda directed against the Soviet Union.

[13] https://bit.ly/2Q0QjiT                                                                                                    

[14] https://bit.ly/2Cy9Ljj

[15] “I’ve been racking my brain since yesterday afternoon at 6 when Lucas Papademos was injured by a makeshift bomb in his car, where was that little pencil-pusher from the European Central Bank coming from and where was he headed? And you know who gave me the answer? Antonakis Samaras. And how? Samaras called that other sellout bastard Yannis Stournaras because obviously he suspected something. And naturally Stournaras told him the news. Stournaras had met with Papademos earlier, no one knows where, much less what they talked about. And the two sellout employees of the Banks here and abroad are so mixed up in the sellout of the country and its national assets and most of all responsible for the plight and misery of the Greek people. Now, Papademos is president of the Academy of Athens, an institution that has been rotten since the day it was set up, and Stournaras is playing the role of Central Banker on behalf of Schäuble and the other bastards in Europe. Let me be straight, it wouldn’t bother me at all if another bomb went off—at Stournaras’s feet.”

[16] Y. Varoufakis, op. cit., p. 84. The Greek version of the text adds the following at the end of the sentence: “and the way to get rid of Stournaras, which decorum prohibits mentioning here.”

[17] Ibid., p. 84

[18] Ibid., pp. 302-303

[19] See the interview the Prime Minister’s wife gave to the Efimerida ton Sintakton on January 4, 2018, available at https://bit.ly/2FPnDpp: “SYRIZA won the elections but didn’t gain power”. See also relevant statements made by Socratis Famellos, Minister of the Environment: “We experience it every day, SYRIZA is not in power”, Georgios Katrougalos, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs: “The people gave SYRIZA a mandate to demolish the system of power that’s been in Greece since the regime change in ‘74, but it hasn’t managed to do so yet.” (newspapers of January 5, 2018).

[20] The Prime Minister himself has characterized important decisions taken by the Council of State as “institutional obstacles”, such as its ruling that the law on broadcasting licenses introduced by his minister was unconstitutional. “We may be uninformed but we manage to often overcome even institutional obstacles”, the Prime Minister wryly noted during a meeting at the Ministry of Health (June 30, 2017), alluding to the justices on the Council of State, who in a statement they issued had accused Polakis of “uninformed criticism that does disservice to the country and its citizens.” https://bit.ly/2PXyy42.

[21] https://bit.ly/2QT4ETV

[22] https://bit.ly/2Sk13Lf

[23] James K. Galbraith, Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice: The Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe, Yale University Press, New Haven 2016.

[24] Ibid. pp. 147-148. The “New Drachma” plan is articulated in Ch 28, entitled ”Exit Made Easy”! Many of the heinously idiotic plans are presented in this book. I read it in July 2016. I started writing an article when I got back in the early morning from a vacation and then went to my office to get my mail. I found waiting for me, deliberately taped to the door in the middle of summer, the first attachment order issued by the “executioner” Mantzouranis on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pursuant to the terrorist ruling of the Court of Appeals (4034/2015) against the Athens Review of Books. It was impossible to continue writing, of course, since I had to devote my time to dealing with this act of government terrorism.

[25] Ibid., p. 148.

[26] Economically disadvantaged area in suburban West Attica.

[27] See https://bit.ly/2AhewMH και https://bit.ly/2KCkoaQ

[28] Varoufakis, op. cit., p. 469.

[29] In Tsipras’s “classical education”, history begins with Lenin and ends with Mao.

[30] Published in its entirety at primeminister.gr/2015/07/30/13907.

[31] See the relevant commentary in the editorial I wrote at the time entitled “213 Nights of Leftist Fantasies”, ARB, issue 65, September 2015.

[32] The phrase is Tsipras’s.

[33] https://bit.ly/2AKqazX

[34] https://bit.ly/2T5n1RW

[35] https://bit.ly/2RfJ6A1

[36] https://bit.ly/2slRBeL

[37] https://bit.ly/2SlpoA6

[38] The entire text of Draghi’s response is available at: https://bit.ly/2AJ0T9n

[39] https://primeminister.gr/2018/08/21/20354

[40] Flambouraris, Karteros, Tzanakopoulos and Pappas continue to meet with Tsipras on a daily basis to discuss how Yannis Stournaras can be removed from office. Tsakalotos, Houliarakis and Liakos don’t participate in these meetings, since the others don’t trust them and suspect them of being on friendly terms with Stournaras. Or at least the latter are less stupid and Stalinist then the former.

[41] https://bit.ly/2BSDBh4

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