Greek exits add to reform woes

GREECE’S privatisation chief and a senior finance ministry official resigned on Saturday after they were charged with breach of duty over their former role as board members of a state utility.

The resignations are a setback to Greece’s efforts to push through an ambitious reform programme in a bid to turn around the debt-laden country, which relies on aid from foreign lenders to keep afloat.

Takis Athanasopoulos, a former chief executive of state utility PPC who later took over Greece’s privatisation agency, was among former board members charged on Friday for commissioning a loss-making power plant in central Greece in 2007, according to court officials. The charges came under a public embezzlement law.

In his letter of resignation to finance minister Yannis Stournaras, Athanasopoulos said he welcomed the opportunity to prove that he was wrongly charged.

“It gives me the chance to prove that the interest of PPC and the state were fully served,” Athanasopoulos said, adding he did not want the case to affect Greece’s privatisation plan.

George Mergos, a general secretary in the finance ministry, was also a board member when PPC commissioned the €250m (£218m) natural-gas-fired plant at Aliveri. He has denied any wrongdoing. The company incurred losses of more than €100m from the plant, court officials said.

The finance ministry said Stournaras had accepted both resignations and that a new privatisations chief would be named by Monday. A parliamentary committee will need to approve the government’s proposed candidate.

The charges are against PPC’s entire board, including the current leader of Greece’s biggest labour union, GSEE.