Elias Demetracopoulos, Journalist Who Linked Greek Junta to Nixon Campaign, Dies at 87


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Elias P. Demetracopoulos in an undated photo.

Elias Demetracopoulos, an enigmatic journalist who fled Greece after a military coup in 1967 and accused the ruling right-wing junta of illegally funneling a half-million dollars into Richard M. Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign, died on Feb. 16 at a nursing home in Athens. He was 87.

The cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease, his American biographer, James H. Barron, said.

Mr. Demetracopoulos’s evidence of secret donations provided President Lyndon B. Johnson “with a chance to damage, if not sink, Nixon’s campaign,” Robert Dallek wrote in 1998 in “Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973.” The evidence may even have been among the documents that burglars were seeking when they broke into the Democratic national headquarters at the Watergate office complex in 1972.

During his self-imposed exile in Washington, Mr. Demetracopoulos lobbied Congress and the White House indefatigably to suspend support for the Greek military dictatorship, which the American government somewhat grudgingly viewed as a bulwark against encroaching Communism in southern Europe.

The junta collapsed in 1974 after Turkey invaded Cyprus, and democracy was eventually restored. So was Mr. Demetracopoulos’s Greek citizenship. But he remained in Washington as a bon vivant. He returned to Athens last year.

His ambiguous role as a journalist with a political agenda and his anomalous — and mutable — cadre of allies and enemies defined him as a cryptic character in the capital, where he never learned to drive and conducted business from a telephone-equipped table at the Jockey Club.

According to Mr. Dallek and other sources, Mr. Demetracopoulos told Lawrence F. O’Brien Jr., who was managing Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey’s presidential campaign in 1968, that the Greek junta had pumped $549,000 (about $3.7 million in today’s dollars) into Nixon’s coffers and that Richard Helms, the director of central intelligence, could confirm the transaction.

“O’Brien took the story to the president, but Johnson, according to what O’Brien told Demetracopoulos, refused to act on it,” Mr. Dallek wrote. “He would neither ask Helms to investigate the report nor consider leaking it to the press, should it prove to be true.”

Mr. Dallek concluded that President Johnson had three reasons: that he considered Mr. Demetracopoulos a “troublemaker” to whom the State Department had originally hoped to deny asylum; that he was by then personally disinclined to help Humphrey; and that he did not want to further provoke Nixon, fearing, as he confided to the White House counsel without elaborating, that he might be prosecuted if Nixon became president.

The State Department’s exasperation with Mr. Demetracopoulos boiled over again in 1977 when he was blamed for derailing the Carter administration’s nomination of William E. Schaufele as ambassador to Greece. Mr. Schaufele had questioned the territorial status of Greek islands off the Turkish coast.

Also in 1977, an article in The New York Times, citing statements and records attributed to officials of the Central Intelligence Agency, cast doubt on Mr. Demetracopoulos’s insistence that he been an underground resistance fighter against the Nazis in Greece in World War II. It also raised doubts about his assertion that he had volunteered his services to foreign intelligence agencies.

To redeem his reputation, Mr. Demetracopoulos sued the C.I.A. In 1983, the agency concluded that nothing in its files substantiated the original allegations.

Elias Panayotis Demetracopoulos was born in Athens on Dec. 1, 1928. His father, Panayotis, was an archaeological guide at the Acropolis. His mother was the former Panayota Bokolas.

He married a former United States Information Service officer in 1953; they divorced a year later. He has no immediate survivors.

He attended the Athens School of Economics and Business (now the Athens University of Economics and Business) and in 1950 became the political editor of the morning newspaper I Kathimerini, a post he held until 1958.

Until 1967, he was a political and diplomatic editor for other Greek newspapers, a reporter for several magazines and a correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance and The New York Herald Tribune.

When he moved to America, Mr. Demetracopoulos was a consultant for Brimberg & Company, a New York stockbroker, advising investors on foreign affairs. From 1979 until 1984 he also worked as a correspondent for the Greek newspapers Makedonia and Thessaloniki.

“With doors closed to him as a journalist, he used his international and domestic connections to support himself as an information broker,” Mr. Barron wrote in his forthcoming biography, tentatively titled “The Greek Connection.”

“He became a political intelligence gatherer, connecting friends from both parties with his Wall Street clients,” he continued, “but his primary focus remained the overthrow of the Greek dictatorship.”

Mr. Barron wrote that Mr. Demetracopoulos was honored in 2008 by the Hellenic Republic as “a champion of freedom and democracy” who had performed “outstanding services to Greece.”



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