Greek central banker accuses deputy minister of recording phone conversation, leak to media

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ATHENS, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- Greece's central banker Yannis Stournaras requested on Tuesday judicial authorities to take action, accusing Deputy Health Minister Pavlos Polakis of recording a private telephone conversation they had and leaking it to media.

"It is historically unprecedented by European standards for a government minister to record a private telephone conversation and to immediately leak, selectively, falsified parts of such a conversation to a media outlet, friendly to the government, thus seeking to ensure favorable coverage," Stournaras said in an e-mailed press statement.

The Governor of the central Bank of Greece added that these actions occurred without his consent and constituted a violation of the Greek Penal Code.

He called judicial authorities to take action, stressing that the "preposterous attempt" by Polakis to interfere with how the Administration of the Bank of Greece and him personally perform their duties is a "gross institutional transgression."

"I call upon the Prime Minister and the government to take immediate steps in order to safeguard the independence of the Bank of Greece, as enshrined in European and Greek law," the statement concluded.

It was issued after a Greek daily published on Monday evening transcripts of the conversation Stournaras had with Polakis after the latter called him regarding a personal issue.

According to the media report which Polakis also shared on his social media accounts, stating that he confirms the content, the deputy minister asked the central banker to probe all loans granted to politicians and media.

"Otherwise I will come down there and will not leave," Polakis told Stournaras, according to the leaked conversation.

The phone call was made after another Greek newspaper reported during the weekend that Polakis had received 100,000 euros (113,000 U.S. dollars) in loans from Greek Attica bank, secured against a home that already had a 300,000 euro mortgage.

The central Bank of Greece had a meeting with Attica bank officials on Monday over the controversial loan to examine whether banking rules had been violated.

Attica Bank is not among the four systemic banks in Greece and therefore is under the supervision of the Bank of Greece and not the European Central Bank.

Opposition parties also decried Polakis' behavior.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' office issued a statement stating that the Greek government has proved that it fully respects laws regarding the independence of the Bank of Greece "even though the Governor has expressed different opinions on critical issues of the economic policy."

All sides should show the same respect to "independence and the principle of political neutrality," the e-mailed statement read. (1 euro= 1.13 U.S. dollars) Enditem

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