An abbot accused of embezzlement, money laundering and making false statement in a government land swap deal was arrested Saturday and placed under guard in his monastic cell, police said.
Abbot Efraim was taken into custody on the grounds of the 1,000-year-old Vatopedi Monastery at Mount Athos, police said.
The abbot, who says he has a high fever and a high blood sugar count, is being kept “provisionally” under guard in his cell. A decision on whether to transfer him to a prison hospital is pending, and will likely be made after Christmas.
Efraim was involved in a land swap with the Greek state that greatly benefited the Vatopedi monastery: an investigating high court judge estimated the benefit at more than €100 million ($130 million). The case greatly harmed the conservative government that ruled from 2004-9 and led to the resignation of three of its ministers.
The abbot, along with 31 other defendants, will stand trial, but the politicians embroiled in the scandal will not: parliament decided, in February this year, that the statute of limitations — which is far more restrictive for members of parliament than for other citizens — had expired.
Indeed, many believe that the early dissolution of parliament in September 2009, which led to elections and victory for the socialists, was precipitated as much by a desire to protect the three conservative ministers as by the government’s inability to deal with the country’s snowballing deficit.
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