Disinherited children contest Papandreou's will Greek premier had left entire estate to widow

fight turns nasty

September 29, 1996|By CHICAGO TRIBUNE

ATHENS, Greece -- Three months after his death, former Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou has generated a blazing family feud that is being fought out in public with increasing bitterness.

The source of the row is a will in which Papandreou left all his possessions to his second wife, former airline attendant Dimitra Liani, and told his four children that their inheritance was his good name.

Papandreou's daughter, Sophia, and her husband, Theodore Katsanevas, have announced that they are bringing suit to challenge the will's validity. Under Greek law, a widow is entitled to her husband's entire estate only if there are no children. Otherwise, the children are supposed to receive 75 percent and the widow 25 percent.

Novelist Nikos Papandreou, one of the former prime minister's sons, has entered the fray with a scathing attack on his stepmother in a newspaper interview.

"This relationship ruined my father's political career and, I think, ultimately brought about his physical demise," he was quoted as saying. "She was a woman who wanted power and would do anything to get it. But I do not think my father was happy in his marriage, and I think he regretted it to the day he died."

After that statement appeared, Liani fired back at her critics as "salesmen of ingratitude."

"Let these people finally understand: Andreas Papandreou was a great man, and his [memory] cannot fit in with small men," she said in a statement read on television.

Papandreou, three times prime minister and the dominant political personality of his time, was often involved in controversy because of his left-wing, anti-American politics. He generated more controversy when he divorced his American wife, Margaret, and married Liani, now 40, in 1989.

In his last three-year term of office, which ended with his resignation last January because of failing health, he appointed Liani to run his office, and she was accused by Papandreou's opponents of meddling in affairs for which she had no legal responsibility and of trying to launch her own political career.

This led to a press campaign against her that included the publication of apparently stolen photographs of her as a young woman, cavorting in nude sex scenes with men and other women.

Liani, popularly known as Mimi, charged that Katsanevas was behind the campaign against her. Papandreou, in one of his wills, said Katsanevas, a Socialist Party politician, was the "family disgrace" and was trying to exploit the Papandreou name to promote his own political ambitions.

Papandreou urged his three sons to condemn Katsanevas and ostracize him, something they have declined to do.

Papandreou wrote his contested will in November 1990 and wrote a second one in May 1993 that also left his estate to Liani. Katsanevas, who chose to challenge the first will because of its attacks on him, said the will was "either a forgery or the product of duress and should therefore be invalidated."

In his first will, Papandreou described Liani as "my great love" and "the sole source of happiness in my life." He said she had been the victim of a smear campaign and called on his friends to support her "in every possible way."

He left her his material assets, including a $3 million pink villa that he built shortly before his death. Beyond the villa, which was placed in Liani's name when it was built, the extent of his estate has not been made known publicly.

In his recent interview, Nikos Papandreou was unsparing in his criticism of his stepmother.

"Many vultures show up around a powerful man, and she was one of them," he said. "But she has something. Otherwise she would not be where she is. She has a certain domineering quality. When you combine that with a certain instinct, a hunger for power and a physical beauty, and impose that on a man in his 60s and 70s, then you have the makings of a disaster."

Pub Date: 9/29/96

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