ATHENS – The trial of 13 people charged in the Vatopedi Monastery land swap scandal that cost the government hundreds of millions of euros in lost revenue was abruptly adjourned as soon as it started on March 2 because the courtroom wasn’t big enough.
The trial was postponed until March 23, a common practice in Greece where court procedures are often delayed for a myriad of reasons and where defendants sometimes don’t even have to appear.
Originally, 14 people were due to stand trial but one of the accused has died.
Those who will face charges of breach of trust and making false declarations include the monastery’s Abbot, Ephraim; a monk, Arsenios; and the wife of former Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis, Katerina Peleki, who is a notary. Peleki’s father and brother are among those charged.
The Mount Athos monastery exchanged between 2006 and 2008 its ownership rights to Vistona Lake and its surrounding land with the titles for various properties that belonged to the state that was valued at far less, causing a furor when it was discovered.
The monastery claimed rights to the lake based on gift from a Byzantine ruler in 1080 but, according to the case file, this was wrongly determined as being ownership by state officials who want 234 million euros in damages.