Five caught for fraud at National Tourism Organization

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 bogus 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.

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 company of the latter.

They have also arrested Costas Vasilakos, former special adviser to ex-GNTO general secretary Nikos Karahalios.

Vasilakos is accused of issuing a check of 147,600 euros 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 yesterday appeared at police headquarters in Athens, denied any involvement with the case. In comments made to local media, Karahalios claimed that his name had been dragged in the case in an attempt 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 Friday.

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.