A senior Greek police officer has claimed that the far-right Golden Dawn party has infiltrated the police at various levels. He has laid the blame on consecutive governments and the leadership of the police force for turning a blind eye to what he describes as “pockets of fascism”.

Speaking to the Guardian on condition of anonymity, the officer said the Greek state had been fully aware of the activities of Golden Dawn for several years, with the National Intelligence Service and other security agencies monitoring it closely. The officer claimed police chiefs had had the opportunity to isolate and remove these small “pockets of fascism” in the force but decided not to. The state, he said, wanted to keep the fascist elements “in reserve” and use them for its own purposes.

The officer said he believed that Golden Dawn members could be used against the Greek left, which has led popular street protests against the government and austerity measures imposed by the EU. He expressed his belief that neo-fascist groups may already have acted as agents provocateurs during demonstrations across the country, to provoke clashes between demonstrators and the police or even between demonstrators themselves.

A spokesman for the Greek police, Christos Manouras, denied the police were using or being used by “any political formation against any other”. Manouras rejected the existence of “pockets of fascism” within the force and said no unlawful behaviour would be tolerated.