The allegations by Greece’s central banker Yannis Stournaras that Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis had illegally recorded their phone conversation (an accusation Mr Polakis denies) and the subsequent leak by the Minister of the audio transcript to a pro-SYRIZA online news outlet had drawn the attention of international media. The story developed after Proto Thema had revealed in an exclusive piece that the Minister had received a 100,000-euro loan with favourable terms from state-owned Attica Bank, the backlash of which led to the Central Bank of Greece calling a meeting to examine the details of the loan. The Minister then called Mr Stournaras and urged him to check other loans taken out by political opponents.
From the New York Times via Associated Press:
Greece’s central bank chief asked Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to intervene on Tuesday after a cabinet minister phoned him to tell him how to do his job and then allegedly leaked the conversation to the press.
In a statement, bank chief Yiannis Stournaras deplored the deputy minister’s “unheard-of” attempt to influence the central bank, and urged Tsipras to protect the central bank’s independence.
“The preposterous attempt … to interfere with how the administration of the Bank of Greece and I personally perform our duties is a gross institutional transgression,” he said.
The Bank of Greece governor — a finance minister in Greece’s former conservative government — has long had a testy relationship with Tsipras’ left-wing administration, and is frequently targeted by pro-government media.
From the Financial Times:
Greece’s central bank governor Yannis Stournaras has accused a cabinet minister from the leftwing Syriza government of making a “preposterous attempt” to influence him after excerpts from a telephone conversation they had were leaked to a Greek news website. Pavlos Polakis, the deputy health minister, confirmed on Tuesday that he called Mr Stournaras on Monday amid reports that the terms of a €100,000 personal loan he received from Attica Bank, a small state-owned lender, were being reviewed by the central bank. The loan, seen as unusually large given Greece’s straitened financial circumstances, was revealed by the Greek newspaper Proto Thema on Sunday. Mr Polakis said he needed it to cover personal and political expenses because, as a member of the cabinet, he was unable to practise his profession as a surgeon.
Greek central bank governor Yannis Stournaras called on the government on Tuesday to rein in a minister who he said had tried to interfere with the bank’s independence when he phoned him about inquiries into a bank loan the minister had received.
Deputy Health Minister Pavlos Polakis hit the front pages of Greek newspapers on Sunday for taking out a 100,000 euro consumer loan in 2018, collateralised with a house mortgage, from state-controlled Attica bank, which is supervised by the central bank.
Polakis confirmed he obtained the loan, saying on Facebook that he was forced to seek the funds “to meet family and political life needs”. His comments triggered an angry response from political opponents, who said ordinary Greeks would not have the same access to lending. Greek banks are still cautious about consumer loans as they emerge from a mountain of bad debt.