Gov’t considers plan for tighter financial industry watchdog The government favors the setting up of an independent supervisory authority for insurance companies, in the framework of current trends in the European Union for more effective oversight procedures in the financial industry as a whole, sources said. According to the tentative plan, considered by Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis and the central bank governor, Nicholas Garganas, yesterday, a new central supervisory body will include the chairman of the Capital Market Commission, a deputy governor of the Bank of Greece, the director of its commercial bank inspectorate, and the head of the new insurance watchdog. HATTA calls for reform of tour operation industry The Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourism Agents (HATTA) has called for a reform of the industry’s legal framework to protect both operators and travelers. HATTA Chairman Yiannis Evangelou said in a statement that inadequate government supervision gave rise to the chronic problem of thousands of illegal tour operators, the main cause of the industry’s difficulties, including the recent collapse of one of the country’s major bureaus, Manos, which left hundreds of travelers stranded or forced them to cancel their holidays over the Christmas period. He said such illegal operators, which include municipalities and churches, mainly organize holidays for pilgrims, students and clubs. HATTA called for the State to relinquish a number of responsibilities to legal operators, who, in collaboration with consumers’ associations, could forge control mechanisms to protect both sides, as in Britain and the Netherlands. HATTA said travelers hit by the collapse of Manos were entitled to seek full compensation from the State, as it had failed to implement EU directives insuring travelers against such eventualities. Shipping A total of 113 vessels raised the Greek flag in 2002, including 40 double-hull tankers with a total capacity of 3.19 million register tons. Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Anomeritis told a press conference the qualitative improvement of Greek-registered vessels will continue at a speedier pace in 2003, along with measures boosting the competitiveness of the Greek flag, which is already on the international «PARIS MOU» white safety list. Referring to the accident of the Greek-owned tanker Prestige, which has spilled tens of thousands of tons of crude oil since sinking off Spain’s Atlantic coast in mid-November, he urged Spanish authorities not to make the Greek captain into a scapegoat and to issue an official report. Tax detectives The Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) has drawn up a plan for 2003 to tackle the phenomena of profiteering and unjustified price increases that fuel inflation, the Finance Ministry said. Regional inspection teams will carry out sample checks on basic consumer goods and services on a permanent basis, recording price and gross profit margin fluctuations in retail and wholesale businesses. In the first 11 months of 2002, SDOE confirmed 532,000 violations of the tax code by 20,300 firms and individuals. Of these, 5,145 cases concerned forged tax documents issued by 160 real or bogus enterprises, totaling goods and services worth about 200 million euros.