Greek economy minister quits over house rent scandal

AFP – Greece’s economy minister quit early Tuesday, the prime minister’s office said, hours after his wife was ousted as a junior minister over a housing stipend controversy.

"Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has accepted the resignation of Economy Minister Dimitri Papadimitriou," the premier’s office said in a statement.

Papadimitriou’s wife Rania Antonopoulos, the junior labour minister, had been ousted hours earlier.

According to reports, a reshuffle will be announced on Thursday.

The case has embarrassed the government, which has pledged to eliminate state profligacy and has imposed tax hikes and benefits cuts on Greeks.

It also comes at the start of an audit by Greece’s international creditors, who are vetting a final batch of reforms before the scheduled completion of the country’s bailout in August.

Privatisations, a sector supervised by the ministry formerly headed Papadimitriou, are to feature in the talks.

Papadimitriou oversaw investment issues while Antonopoulou was tasked with reducing unemployment.

The pair, who were prominent US-based economists before both took leave of absence to return to Greece to join the government in 2015 and 2016, while keeping a permanent home in the US.

But despite being personally wealthy, Antonopoulos sparked a controversy after it emerged she had requested a 1,000-euro ($1,200) monthly housing stipend available to government members without permanent homes in Athens.

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The case was exposed by pro-opposition daily Eleftheros Typos last week.

Antonopoulos on Monday said she had received 23,000 euros ($28,000) over two years, and was technically within her rights to do so.

"It was never my intention to insult the Greek people," she said in a statement.

"I understand that my financial standing, as reflected in my tax declaration, has increased public outrage," she added.

The pair are senior scholars at the New York-based Levy Economics Institute of Bard College.

In 2015, Antonopoulos declared stocks worth $340,000 and an annual income of 70,000 euros.

Papadimitriou in 2015 declared a portfolio of some $2.7 million and an income of over $450,000.

Tsipras, who trails in opinion polls, is reportedly planning to also replace migration minister Yiannis Mouzalas, who is battling ill health.

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