As a probe into bad loans given out by the state-run Hellenic Postbank (TT) has allegedly discovered a widespread ring of officials handing out money to businessmen who pocketed it, the institution’s former President, Angelos Filippides was arrested in Turkey where he was caught because he kept using his mobile phone to call Greek TV stations to defend himself.
An arrest warrant against Angelos Filippidis was turned into an international one on Friday, and Turkish authorities tracked down and arrested him in Istanbul the same day, in cooperation with Greek authorities.
Filippides had been all over Greek news for days on TV, saying he would return to explain what had happened to the bank when he was heading it, but investigators said they’ve uncovered a raft of evidence that the bank was used as a kind of personal ATM for the already rich and connected who got loans without guarantees or collateral and didn’t repay it.
At least 1.5 million euros in “unjustifiable” income has been found in bank accounts in Filippidis’s name, media reports said. The failing bank was put into liquidation last year, another victim of bank scandals in which officials had been accused of using their institutions to benefit themselves and their friends.
A report carried out by inspectors of the Bank of Greece into millions of euros in loans issued by the state-controlled Hellenic Postbank (TT) in 2008 and 2009 discovered that the lender repeatedly violated its own credit issue policy to give the loans, often with the proceeds ending up in the personal bank accounts of some of the business owners.
The bank is used by many civil servants who have often been unable to get small loans, with the report suggesting that it was used instead to benefit a few well-connected.
According to the central bank’s report, extracts of which were seen by Kathimerini, TT issued loans without guarantees and without updated financial data, offering favorable terms – including low interest rates and long grace periods – to several companies, in some cases to overindebted ones.
Two loans worth 17 million euros that were issued to businessman Kyriakos Griveas – one of 25 people charged with fraud and money laundering in connection to the TT scandal – ended up in the personal bank accounts of Griveas and his wife, according to the BoG report.
A larger loan, of 97.3 million euros, was extended to the pharmaceutical firm Alapis, one of several companies owned by entrepreneur Lavrentis Lavrentiadis, without any guarantee whatsoever, the report added.
Lavrentiadis was also the principal shareholder in the Proton Bank that failed because of bad loans. He has been jailed awaiting trial on charges of corruption.
Alpha television channel and Interamerican insurance firm owner Dimitris Kontominas, has been linked to a joint credit card venture with TT, which resulted in estimated losses of 150 million euros for the state bank.
Kontominas, 75, is to defend himself before an investigating magistrate on Jan. 14. He has been under police guard at an Athens hospital where he was admitted week with breathing problems. He issued a statement saying he had done nothing wrong and that his accounts were performing and being paid back.
Griveas, who lives abroad, has yet to respond to the warrant out for his arrest.
Another former executive of the bank, who is currently head of the country’s bank bailout fund, known as the HFSF, has also been caught up in the scandal.
Anastasia Sakellariou was a member of the TT committee that handled the restructuring of two loans that are now under investigation by prosecutors. The HFSF put out a statement defending her, saying that the restructurings were “in line with common banking practice,” even though the Bank of Greece said they were not.
Despite the seriousness of the accusations, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative party leader, has given his support to Sakellariou after earlier saying there would be no leniency for political figures or government appointees even charged with wrongdoing.
Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras backed Sakellariou after opposition party calls for her to resign. “I fully trust and respect Greece’s justice system, but I also fully trust Mrs. Sakellariou, her integrity, her professional expertise and, above all, her work so far,” Stournaras said. He didn’t explain what he meant by “so far.”