Greek Tourism Officials Charged With Fraud



Karaxalios
Nikos Karahalios

With Greece struggling to lure more tourists from the country’s biggest revenue raiser, five people, including a former executive at Greece’s National Tourism Organization (GNTO), have been arrested after they allegedly attempted to extract cash from the agency using fake invoices.

Greek Tourism Minister Olga Kefaloyianni has ordered a lawsuit to be filed as well as a high-level administrative inquiry into possible fraud against the organization, the Athens newspaper Kathimerini reported.

Police have over the past few days arrested a 44-year-old businessman, two 29-year-old business partners, and a 44-year-old freelancer working with the vendor’s company. Costas Vasilakos, former special adviser to former GNTO General Secretary Nikos Karahalios, was arrested.

Vasilakos is accused of issuing a check of 147,600 euros ($194,446) from GNTO for the payment of services that were never provided. The services purportedly involved a hotel on the Aegean island of Syros. Karahalios, who appeared at police headquarters in Athens, denied any involvement with the case. Karahalios claimed that his name had been raised to damage his political credibility. He gave no further details.

All suspects face felony charges of embezzlement, fraud, forgery and setting up a criminal organization. They are scheduled to face a prosecutor on Dec. 28. Current GNTO General Secretary Panos Livadas yesterday praised his agency for exposing the scam.

“We shall proceed with all the legal actions, and will continue to provide all the necessary help to the responsible authorities in order to reveal the truth and punish the perpetrators,” he said.