Greek PM Tsipras under pressure over covert Syriza drachma plan reports

Sun Jul 26, 2015 2:48pm EDT
 
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By Angeliki Koutantou

ATHENS (Reuters) - Some members of Greece's leftist government wanted to raid central bank reserves and hack taxpayer accounts to prepare a return to the drachma, according to reports on Sunday that highlighted the chaos in the ruling Syriza party.

It is not clear how seriously the plans, attributed to former Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis and former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, were considered by the government and both ministers were sacked earlier this month. However the reports have been seized on by opposition parties who have demanded an explanation.

The reports came at the end of a week of fevered speculation over what Syriza hardliners had in mind as an alternative to the tough bailout terms that Tsipras reluctantly accepted to keep Greece in the euro.

Around a quarter of the party's 149 lawmakers rebelled over the plan to pass sweeping austerity measures in exchange for up to 86 billion euros in fresh loans and Tsipras has struggled to hold the divided party together

In an interview with Sunday's edition of the RealNews daily, Panagiotis Lafazanis, the hardline former energy minister who lost his job after rebelling over the bailout plans, said he had urged the government to tap the reserves of the Bank of Greece in defiance of the European Central Bank.

Lafazanis, leader of a hardline faction in the ruling Syriza party that has argued for a return to the drachma, said the move would have allowed pensions and public sector wages to be paid if Greece were forced out of the euro.

"The main reason for that was for the Greek economy and Greek people to survive, which is the utmost duty every government has under the constitution," he said.

However he denied a report in the Financial Times that he wanted Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stouranaras to be arrested if he had opposed a move to empty the central bank vaults. In comments to the semi-official Athens News Agency, he called the report a mixture of "lies, fantasy, fear-mongering, speculation and old-fashioned anti-communism".   Continued...

 
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras   in Athens, Greece July 24, 2015.   REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis