The publisher of a satirical magazine that pokes fun at government officials and scandals has avoided prosecution on charges of receiving a 500,000 euros ($654,700) payment from a businessman whose bank accounts in Greece were frozen has avoided prosecution by returning the money, under a two-year-old law which lets people charged with stealing money escape without charges by repaying it.
Antonis Delatolas, who’s made a living ridiculing the inequities of Greek politics and the social system through his satirical weekly To Pontiki, and is also publisher of the daily 6 Meres, was released without bail after he appeared before a special investigating magistrate dealing with the alleged embezzlement of 700 million euros ($916.38 million) from the failed Proton Bank.
The institution had to be nationalized after it went under and its former chief shareholder, Lavrentis Lavrentiadis, is still in jail facing charges over alleged mishandling of the bank’s monies. The original payment was made to Delatolas by Lavrentiadis’s business associate Petros Kyriakidis in January 2012 in return for a share in the Pontiki weekly. Kyriakidis has evaded arrest by fleeing and is still on the lam.
Delatolas took advantage of a 2011 law that allows people suspected of criminal financial wrongdoing to avoid prosecution if they repaid the money that was allegedly stolen. The magistrate was informed that Dellatolas had returned the money, by means of a check payable to Proton Bank. The original transaction, revealed in a report in Eleftherotypia on February 24, was made from the Hellenic Bank in Cyprus, where Kyriakides held an account under his name.
Delatolas had claimed the money was the second of two payments for the sale of a one-third share of his interest in To Pontiki to Kyriakides, who is still a fugitive and was the owner of other media outlets, including the Athens News and Flash radio, both of which have since folded owing thousands in unpaid wages to staff and contributors.
Lavrentiadis was the first to benefit from the law letting suspects go if they repaid stolen money. In September 2011, he repaid 50 million euros ($65.32 million) and was let go before being arrested on other embezzlement schemes which the law didn’t cover.
The government said the avoid-jail law was justified because it takes too long to prosecute cases in the country’s courts which are notoriously slow because of limited working hours and constant continuances caused by claims of illness and the failure or refusal of defendants to show up.