Greece’s Supreme Court has ordered an investigation into allegations that the country’s intelligence service was tapping the phones of nearly three dozen politicians, businessmen, and journalists. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has denied the allegations but the scandal, analysts say, may force him to resign as leader of the country’s center-right party.
The scandal is being likened to the Watergate political scandal that forced the resignation of former U.S. President Richard Nixon in the 1970s. Mitsotakis is vehemently denying any implication in allegations that 33 businessmen, journalists and even politicians of his own party, including the country’s foreign minister, were being tapped by Greek spies.
“This is all shameless and dangerous,” he said in a late-night interview with local television. “But I have faith,” Mitsotakis added, “that the Supreme Court prosecutor will request and get the clarifications needed.”
The left-wing newspaper Documento exposed the scandal on Saturday, reporting that the public figures had been targeted illegally by spyware known as Predator as well as surveillance bugs planted by the state intelligence service, known here as EYP.
Mitsotakis, who leads the country’s center-right party and oversees EYP as part of his duties as prime minister, is already under pressure over a similar scandal that erupted over the summer alleging that EYP had tapped the phone of his socialist political opponent.
At the time, Mitsotakis flatly denied using illegal Israeli-made spyware to listen into the calls of his rival. But he said the taps were legal and admitted that state intelligence had in fact eavesdropped on his opponent, though without explaining why.
On Monday, Kostas Vaxevanis, the editor and journalist who exposed the latest scandal appeared before a Supreme Court prosecutor to answer to an urgent investigation launched in response to the revelations.
Vexevanis emerged from the testimony hours later insisting his story was solid.
“Of course, there is credible proof substantiating the revelations,” he told reporters. “We have already published four text messages sent to people who were being tapped proving that they were being illegally monitored.”
Vexevanis’s report cited two people who claimed they had key roles in the surveillance.
Mitsotakis said the report was part of a bigger political conspiracy to bring down his government and spark the election process early.
“This is all part of an attempt to sink the county in mud and an unbelievable debate in which the government now is being called upon to prove it is not the elephant it is being made out to be,” he said.
Leading businesspeople and politicians targeted by the alleged phone taps have lashed out at the government and Mitsotakis personally. Meanwhile, observers say Greeks have been left stunned and fearful of a state apparatus employing shady tactics more reminiscent of the Cold War than representative of a flourishing democracy.
Vaxevanis has vowed to release more details in the coming weeks.
If verified, the allegations mark an impeachable offense that, analysts say, may see the Greek leader resigning well ahead of national elections slated for next year.