In the strange and surreal world of SYRIZA-governed Greece, it should come as no surprise that the same regime which is putting on a public show of “nipping corruption in the bud” is engaged in some of the most egregiously corrupt practices Greece has ever seen. And that’s saying a lot.
And so we have the story of Haralambos Panotopoulos, apparently a one-man success story, living the dream in the SYRIZA-led “success story” of Greece, whose economy we are told is improving with each passing day.
Panotopoulos, previously the owner of a tire shop, was appointed by deputy health minister Pavlos Polakis as his “right-hand man” in the ministry. When even that promotion was insufficient for Panotopoulos’ services, however, the former tire shop owner was then appointed as an adviser to “Health Units S.A.,” a company operated by the health ministry with oversight over the country’s public health facilities. Panotopoulos’ assignment was to serve as the vice president of the General Hospital of Santorini, in a decision published in Greek e-government website “Diavgeia” on January 9.
For his services, Panotopoulos is receiving a salary of €3,897 euros per month, or €46,000 per year, in a country where 48 percent of the population is receiving an income at or below the poverty line. Who said there’s no upward mobility in Greece?
Panotopoulos’ meteoric rise could be said to be unprecedented. He is a graduate of the Technical Educational Institute of Piraeus’ School of Applied Technology. Until 2012 he was the owner of a tire shop in the Athens suburb of Ilioupoli, but his fortunes seem to have changed in September 2015, when following the re-election of SYRIZA, the newly-appointed deputy health minister Pavlos Polakis appointed Panotopoulos to his parliamentary office with a decision posted on the “Diavgeia” portal on March 24, 2017.
Surely, Panotopoulos’ rapid rise up the ranks has nothing to do with his political sympathies towards SYRIZA. As reported by the Proto Thema newspaper, Panotopoulos, via his social media accounts, sings the graces of Polakis and prime minister Alexis Tsipras, whom he calls the “great captain.” His social media postings also include a strong dosage of socialist realism.
But that’s not all! According to newer revelations which have surfaced following allegations from the National Federation of Public Hospital Employees (POEDIN), Health Units S.A. leased and furnished a luxury villa in 2016 with public funds. It is in this villa where Panotopoulos is said to reside.
As if that weren’t enough, Panotopoulos has been provided an automobile for his transport on the island of Santorini, with a long-term lease paid by the Greek state (read: taxpayer).
In a recent statement, POEDIN alleged:
“At a time when the Health Ministry does not have even a few euros to spare for the nation’s hospitals in order to repair x-ray and CT scan equipment and when surgical procedures are being postponed due to a shortage of supplies, and when necessary drugs are not in supply, it is a provocation for funds from the budget of the Health Ministry to be disbursed for the provision of princely amenities to personnel of Health Units S.A. in Santorini. If this isn’t a scandal, it is surely a provocation.
It is a provocation at a time when public hospitals lack even bandages, and when 50 employees of the Hospital of Santorini reside in a Health Center commune due to high rents, that Mr. Panotopoulos lives in a residence which is paid for by the battered budget of the Health Ministry.”
As there has been up until now no report that Panotopoulos has resigned or been relieved of his position, one could safely assume that he remains in his position. And indeed that is the case. As of this writing, Panotopoulos’ name still appears on the website of Santorini Hospital, as vice president and special adviser.
After all, why should Panotopoulos resign? Polakis has not only publicly provided his full support, but has viciously attacked those who have revealed this blatant example of corruption and clientelism, shamelessly and brazenly calling them:
“…well-fed rats of KEELPNO [Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention] who have started publicly mudslinging and twisting the truth in order to deflect attention from the Novartis Scandal and to slander us with unbelievable lies, foolishly thinking that they will stop us.”
I don’t know about you, but in my book, that’s the way a mafioso speaks. And that’s exactly who is governing Greece at this time, a gang of mafiosi, self-proclaimed “leftists” who have imposed the most brutal and inhuman austerity measures Greece has experienced in its nine years of economic crisis. They continue to engage in the most brazen examples of corruption, graft, nepotism, and clientelism all the while putting on a show of “fighting” corruption via the ludicrous Novartis Scandal — which unfortunately has fooled and fanaticized many people who still blame the previous governments for every ill in Greek society — and via its non-existent “clean-up” of Greek football, all the while arrogantly protecting “national savior” and pistol-wielding oligarch Ivan Savvidis.
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