The parliamentary committee of inquiry set up to investigate the allegations of corruption against former Minister for the Aegean, Aristotelis Pavlidis, heard evidence on Thursday from the alleged victim last week.

SAOS Ferries owner, Fotis Manousis, was the first witness called by the 13 member committee to testify in the investigation.

The shipowner claimed that Pavlidis and his aide at the time, Panayiotis Zachariou, had demanded and accepted bribes of some 700,000 euros in return for ensuring that he was awarded state contracts to service state-subsidized routes to remote islands.

Manousis claims that he was repeatedly shut out of tenders in the past and was only awarded the contract for the non-profitable routes after agreeing to the under-the-table payments.

Accountant Aki Anagnostopoulou and former MP Kostas Zaharakis also appeared before the committee.

The Greek Parliament established the parliamentary committee with 215 out of the 300 members of parliament voting to conduct the inquiry.

The committee will release its findings on April 27.

The ex-minister mounted a long, vehement defence during the debate that led to the setting up of the inquiry.

“I am not resigning; I am staying put,” said Pavlidis, who served as Minister for the Aegean from 2004 to 2007. “After 35 years in Parliament, I will not tolerate this.”

The case was brought to Parliament after a prosecutor investigating Panayiotis Zachariou found there was enough evidence for Parliament to decide whether it should investigate Pavlidis’s role in the affair.

The committee, made up of 13 MPs, the majority of whom are New Democracy deputies, will decide whether the ex-minister should have his immunity from prosecution lifted.

Under the  constitution, only parliament can investigate criminal allegations against acting or former ministers. For charges to be drawn up, the parliament  would have to lift an MP’s immunity.

The resignation of Pavlidis from Parliament will see the government of Costas Karamanlis lose its one-seat parliamentary majority and force Greece to early elections.