NEWS

TT probe into loans finds state lender broke rules as businessmen profited

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 release a series of loans without guarantees, with the money ending up in the personal bank accounts of some of the business owners who benefited.

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 significantly 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.

Meanwhile a third businessman, 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 is to defend himself before an investigating magistrate on Tuesday in connection with the affair. The 75-year-old has been under police guard at an Athens hospital where he was admitted earlier this week with breathing problems. Griveas, who lives abroad, has yet to respond to the warrant out for his arrest, while Lavrentiadis is in pretrial custody at Korydallos Prison on charges of embezzling from Proton Bank, where he was a major stakeholder.

Several former TT executives, including its ex-Chairman Angelos Filippidis, have been charged in connection with the suspicious loans. At least 1.5 million euros in “unjustifiable” income has been found in bank accounts in Filippidis’s name. One former executive of the bank, who is currently head of the country’s bank bailout fund, known as the HFSF, has also been embroiled. 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 insisted in a statement on Friday that those restructurings were “in line with common banking practice.” 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.

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