Investigators are scouring the books of the scandal-hit Greek National Tourism Organisation after the arrests of five former officials charged with attempting to steal funds and a shortfall of 12 million euros ($15.8 million) was reported missing.
Tourism Minister Olga Kefaloyianni ordered a probe into the GNTO’s finances after General Secretary Panos Livadas admitted there were some “gaps in the accounts,” following the arrests, including that of a former GNTO consultant, Costas Vasilakos, on embezzlement charges.
Accountants inspected the organization’s books earlier this month and discovered the shortfall, former general secretary Nikos Karahalios claimed. Karahalios left the organization on Dec. 20, a day after an aide of his attempted to cash a GNTO check bearing the official’s signature, the newspaper Kathimerini reported. Karahalios said his name was forged and that he knew nothing about it.
Reports said Vasilakos, a former special adviser to Karahalios, attempted to cash a check for 147,000 euros ($194,290.) The newspaper said that according to a representative of the organization’s employees, Constantinos Rantos, as well as police sources, Vasilakos had succeeded in getting his hands on two GNTO checkbooks, one of which was used to write out the check.
Rantos also told Kathimerini that Vasilakos applied pressure on staff to divulge the organization’s banking details.Vasilakos is accused of issuing the check from GNTO for the payment of services that were never provided. The services purportedly involved a hotel on the Aegean island of Syros. He denied any involvement with the case. Karahalios claimed that his name had been raised to damage his political credibility. He gave no further details.’
Livadas 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.
Three of the five suspects were remanded in custody on Dec. 29 after appearing before a magistrate on charges of forming a criminal gang, attempted fraud, forgery and embezzlement. They included the suspected leader, Vasilakos. Two of the five suspects were granted conditional release.