ECONOMY

Businessman presents his defense over fraud claims

Businessman Athanassios Athanassoulis, head of information technology group Altec, yesterday defended himself against accusations of issuing bogus invoices and fake repos by trying to present himself as the victim of slander. Athanassoulis and business partner Giorgos Valsamidis, the main shareholders of the Altec group, claimed that the alleged bogus invoices found at Altec and electronics retail subsidiary Microland were all in order and pledged full cooperation with the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE). Athanassoulis and Valsamidis said that they would await the final reports by SDOE before deciding what action to take – presumably against their accusers. Athanassoulis was notably silent on his main accuser, controversial publisher Giorgos Kouris. Kouris and Athanassoulis are partners in listed company Alter TV, which owns a station. When their partnership hit the rocks, it was Kouris who accused Athanassoulis in unambiguous language of being a fraudster, devoting the front page of his newspaper Avriani to the subject over several days by publishing the two allegedly fake repos on the front page and declaring that his partner had swindled him of several million euros. Kouris also accused several high-ranking members of the ruling socialist PASOK party of benefitting from Athanassoulis’s largesse, in several ways. Since then, the truculent partners have surprisingly made up and Kouris’s campaign against the leading Socialists has died down, although the affair is still talked about a lot. Reporters, who pressed Athanassoulis with questions, failed to elicit a single comment on Kouris. He just refused to admit the existence of fake repos, remarking that the Emporiki Bank, which has confirmed that two repurchase agreements signed with the bank have been altered, has deposited a complaint against «persons unknown» and not against the Altec shareholders. One politician who suffered from the revelations was former Deputy Public Order Minister Vangelis Malesios, who was forced to resign when Kouris revealed he had been living, rent-free, in a house owned by Athanassoulis. The latter yesterday defended Malesios, saying that their friendship preceded their involvement in politics – Athanassoulis was a prominent Socialist activist as a university student and immediately afterward before going into business – but admitted that his friend’s agreeing to live in his property for free was an «unfortunate decision.» He said he had merely wanted to help Malesios, an MP from northwest Greece, to relocate his family in Athens without incurring too many expenses. Athanassoulis likewise defended his relations with other prominent Socialists as stemming from his own previous active political involvement. «I knew many of my contemporaries who went on to become ministers, but our friendship began at a time when none had become an official,» he said. He added that he had never provided inside information to his friends for them to exploit in the stock market, as Kouris has alleged.