Bank loan probe nets big fish
Authorities charge 25, arrest three over suspicious Hellenic Postbank loans worth 500 million euros
A prominent businessman and two former executives of the state-controlled Hellenic Postbank (TT) were arrested yesterday on charges of money laundering and fraud against the state in connection with a series of loans the bank is alleged to have issued to several entrepreneurs between 2007 and 2012, resulting in losses of some 500 million euros.
A total of 25 people – entrepreneurs and bank officials – have been charged in connection with loans that the bank is alleged to have granted without adequate guarantees, prosecutors said. Warrants were issued for the arrest of seven of those suspects and three were detained yesterday.
They included Dimitris Kontominas, the 75-year-old owner of Alpha television channel and the Interamerican insurance company, who was not taken into custody as he was undergoing treatment in an Athens hospital where he remained under police guard last night. In a statement, Kontominas, who is expected to defend himself before an investigating magistrate next Tuesday, denied any wrongdoing and claimed that “there is not even a trace of illegality” in his business activities.
Apart from the two former TT executives who were arrested yesterday, prosecutors have issued warrants for another four, including TT’s former Chairman Angelos Filippidis. In comments to Skai TV yesterday, Filippidis denied the charges and said he would explain “each and every loan” when he returns from a business trip abroad. “All the loans were issued correctly and if I could turn back time, I would issue them again,” he said.
Warrants are also out for the arrest of businessman Kyriakos Griveas and his wife, who live abroad.
According to prosecutors, one of the entrepreneurs on the list of 25 suspects is Lavrentis Lavrentiadis, who is in pretrial custody on charges of embezzling from Proton Bank, in which he was a major stakeholder, to support other businesses.
The largest of the suspicious loans are alleged to have gone to Kontominas and Lavrentiadis, according to the prosecutor’s report, which said the latter received 100 million euros and the former 110 million euros. The report also refers to a credit card apparently issued illegally by TT to Kontominas.
The 150-page report, compiled by prosecutor Popi Papandreou, notes that much of the money from the loans was funnelled out of Greece via offshore firms. The report said the loans were used "not to boost or expand business activities but to increase the wealth of particular individuals."