Greek-Russian business tycoon Ivan Savvidis on Tuesday sparked controversy with an interview appearing in the Greek news website protothema.gr, where among others he compared Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to Russian leader Vladimir Putin and attacked Greece's main opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, saying that he "will never become prime minister".
Savvidis praised the way that Tsipras handled the problems arising with the tobacco firm SEKAP and its outstanding fines, including the controversial amendment tabled by a SYRIZA MP allowing these fines to be written off. According to Savvidis, the prime minister was "a pragmatist and had acted with a high sense of morality and practicality."
"He called for dialogue on the essence of the issues. He recognised that there was a problem that made investments in Greece difficult," the Russian magnate noted, adding that there were thousands of investors like himself.
Savvidis pointed out that former prime minister Antonis Samaras, who had sold him the former state-run tobacco company SEKAP, "had been able to sell me his headache for very good money. Because SEKAP was his headache and now it has become mine."
He was intensely critical of the stance adopted by main opposition New Democracy on the same issue, especially ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, saying that he had expected ND as a supposedly investor-friendly party to admit that a write off of the debts was necessary, or at least use "sound arguments."
"That gentleman, however, said things that I cannot even call a joke," Savvidis added.
"What investor would agree to take on such a burden? So many fines? They wanted to sell me a company and only then reveal the problems with the fines for illegal trading," he said.
Savvidis said that he "takes his hat off" to Tsipras for his handling of the affair, which he said was the way that "prime ministers should act, protecting any investor."
"We are not friends with Mr. Tsipras. There is no way that ND will win. SYRIZA has temporarily lost ground and ND is temporarily gaining. But ND has no idea how to shake things up," he said.
The Greek-Russian businessman, who recently successfully bid for Thessaloniki port and owns a football club in the city, also made clear that he has not given up his plans to break into Greece's media sector.
"One way or the other I will buy one of the central television channels. Whatever happens! Very soon. When I say soon it may possibly be over by May. As regards Pegasus and DOL, I do not hide my interest in both," he said.
This was a very good time for someone to invest in Greece, Savvidis added, while noting that he should be treated as a foreign investor. "The market, at the moment, is rock bottom in all directions but I believe in the country's potential and that is why I am taking a risk. My belief is that the businessman who can correctly assess the dangers so that losses are lower than profits is the one that gains."