Lavrentiadis Heading for Jail on Bank Charges



Lavrentiadis2Prominent Greek businessman Lavrentis Lavrentiadis, who was taken to a psychiatric hospital following his arrest on charges of money-laundering, fraud and being part of a criminal gang while the major shareholder of Proton Bank, will be jailed pending his trial for involvement in a banking scandal, a court source said on Dec. 14.

Lavrentiadis,  40, who began his career in the chemicals industry and then moved into banking and media, was arrested on Dec. 13 but complained of being ill and was first taken to general hospital and then transferred to a psychiatric hospital in western Athens.

He is among the most high-profile Greek businessmen to be charged since Greece sank into a debt crisis, and his arrest comes amid growing public anger at a political and business elite blamed for dragging the country close to financial ruin, although he said he is being put up as a sacrificial goat for Greece’s economic problems.

He faced a magistrate in the hospital who decided he should be held until his trial, according to the news agency Reuters and is expected to be taken either to prison or remain in custody in the prison’s hospital.

A Greek prosecutor filed felony charges against him earlier this year in relation to the collapse of Proton Bank, a small Greek financial institution which became the first Greek bank to be effectively nationalized after it fell under a bank rescue fund set up by Greece and its international lenders.

Lavrentiadis has denied any wrongdoing. In a statement, he said the decision to jail him did not take into account his health issues and that the charges against him were built on a biased and wrong report from Greece’s central bank. “My health problems were ignored,” he said. “The justice system is responsible now for anything that might happen to me,” he said. If convicted, he could face life in prison. Another 27 suspected associates, including Proton executives, also face trial.

A court ordered the confiscation of Lavrentiadis’s property and assets, a court official said. The charges against Lavrentiadis are related to accusations that Proton issued more than 700 million euros of bad loans to companies he owned or had connections with, as reported by Greece’s central bank in an audit last year.