Greek PM Distances Himself from Wiretapping Scandal that Rocked the Country

Published: 09 August 2022

Mitsotakis GreeceGreek Prime Minister Mitsotakis’ administration was accused of wiretapping the phones of an opposition party’s political leader and two journalists. (Photo: European People's Party, Flickr, License)

By Inci Sayki

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Monday that he did not know his political opponent had been wiretapped by the country’s intelligence service, adding that the spying was legal but wrong.

Mitsotakis responded to a political scandal that erupted last week when the head of the opposition party Pasok and member of the European Parliament Nikos Androulakis revealed that spyware was found in his mobile phone during an inspection by the European Parliament cybersecurity service.

The socialist Pasok party was up until the financial crisis that rocked Greece more than a decade ago the traditional rival of Mitsotakis’ New Democracy party. The wiretapping was ordered last year by the EYP, Greece’s National Intelligence service, which reports to Mitsotakis.

“I was not aware of it and, obviously, I would never allow it,” Mitsotakis said in a televised statement.

“Although everything was done lawfully, the National Intelligence Service (EYP) underestimated the political dimension of that particular action. It was formally adequate, but politically unacceptable,” said Mitkotakis on Monday and pledged to mend the intelligence service’s shortcomings.

The wiretapping affair, which many compare to the Watergate scandal, prompted the resignation of the government’s General Secretary Grigoris Dimitriadis, a top aide and nephew of Mitsotakis. Within the same hour, EYP’s chief Panagiotis Kontoleon also stepped down.

Both resignations came after Androulakis filed a complaint at the Greek Supreme Court detailing the wiretapping attempt, reported the Guardian. He called on the Greek parliament to set up an investigative committee and accused the government of downplaying the issue.

Another Greek outlet,  iEidiseis, cited sources in Brussels who claimed that Greece may not get the second tranche of the European recovery fund because it has not met the goals set by the EU, particularly the reforms concerning the rule of law and that this scandal made the situation even worse.

A second installment of the $31 billion in grants and loans the European Commission designated to Greece to help its post-Covid recovery, and “accelerate the transition towards a low-carbon, digital and more inclusive economy,” will no longer be disbursed within a month’s time, as was scheduled, the outlet said.

This has not been the only wiretapping affair Greece has been confronted with.

Two Greek journalists have also alleged a similar attempt by the government to bug their phones with spyware, and took legal action.

One of the journalists in question was Thanasis Koukakis, a financial reporter for CNN Greece and Financial Times, while he was working on alleged money laundering and corruption cases.

Kontoleon admitted that his service had spied on during a parliamentary committee hearing on July 29, according to two lawmakers that spoke to Reuters.

The other victim was Stavros Malichudis, a journalist following migration issues.