Opposition parties in Greece are demanding answers following media reports of a secret government plan in Athens to leave the euro. The plan allegedly involved hacking into accounts and arresting the top central banker.
It is not clear how seriously the plan, attributed to former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and former Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis (pictured above from left to right) were considered by the government. Both ministers were sacked earlier this month.
However, the reports have been seized on by opposition parties, which demanded an explanation on Monday.
"The revelations that are coming out raise a major political, economic and moral issue for the government which needs in-depth examination," according to a joint statement by the center-right New Democracy party, the centrist To Potami and the Socialist Pasok parties, all of which backed Tsipras in parliamentary votes on the bailout this month.
The plan involved the reintroduction of the drachma, the conservative Kathimerini newspaper reported on Sunday, and was discussed during a conference call with investors on July 16. Extracts of the call were also published in the media.
Parallel payment system
Varoufakis claimed he had been authorized by Alexis Tsipras in December to examine such a parallel payment system, Kathimerini reported, but he said he did not get the final go-ahead after Tsipras' leftist Syriza party won in general elections a month later.
The newspaper report indicated the plan involved secretly copying the passwords of citizens' tax accounts by hacking into the public revenues website. It was aimed at creating a system to allow payments between third parties and the state if banks were forced to close.
Varoufakis had a team in place to prepare the plan, which Kathimerini reported would have eventually required a 1,000-strong staff to implement.
On Monday, Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas said that such a proposal was never discussed by the government.
"Such discussions have never taken place at a government policy level," he told Skai television.
The conference call took place more than a week after Varoufakis left his post as finance minister.
According to extracts from the call, Varoufakis said that German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble was "hell-bent on effecting a Grexit so nothing is over."
"The work was more or less complete," Varoufakis said. "We did have a Plan B but the difficulty was to go from the five people who were planning it to the 1,000 people that would have to implement it. For that I would have to receive another authorization which never came."
He told Britain's Telegraph newspaper on Monday that the quotes from the reported call were accurate, but added that some Greek media reports were twisted.
"The context of all this is that they want to present me as a rogue finance minister, and have me indicted for treason. It is all part of an attempt to annul the first five months of this government and put it in the dustbin of history," he told the Telegraph.
"I am impressed by the fantasies of my detractors," Varoufakis posted on Twitter.
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. Tsipras has struggled to hold the divided party together.
"Lies, fantasy, fear-mongering"
In an interview with Sunday's edition of the RealNews daily, Panagiotis Lafazanis, the hard-line 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 hard-line 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."
bea/cjc (dpa, Reuters)