ECONOMY

Greek privatization agency chief quits

Greece dismissed the chairman of its privatization agency on Sunday after a newspaper reported that he travelled on the private plane of a businessman who just bought a state company.

Stelios Stavridis is the second head of HRADF to leave in less than six months, reigniting controversy around Greece’s ailing privatization program which is a key part of its international bailout.

Delays and privatization receipt shortfalls are a constant headache for the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, which bankroll Greece’s 240-billion-euro rescue.

The lenders said last month that they would review the way HRADF was operating, after it emerged that the agency would miss its 2013 revenue target by about 1 billion euros.

“Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras asked today for the resignation of HRADF chairman Stelios Stavridis,” the finance ministry said in a brief statement.

A finance ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that Stavridis’s resignation was effective immediately.

The official said the dismissal followed a report in Proto Thema on Saturday that Stavridis traveled last week on the private plane of shipowner Dimitris Melissanidis, a major shareholder of a Greek-Czech consortium which in May agreed to buy a 33 percent stake in state gambling firm OPAP.

Stavridis was not immediately available for comment.

According to the newspaper report, he admitted he used Melissanidis’s plane to travel to his holiday home.

“Melissanidis, who was traveling to France, offered to take me with him to accommodate me,” he was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

Stavridis took the flight immediately after the signing of an agreement to finalize the 652 million-euro OPAP deal, Proto Thema said.

HRADF chief executive Yannis Emiris told Reuters he was keeping his post and that Greece’s ailing privatization program would not suffer from Stavridis’s resignation.

“There will be absolutely no delays to the program,” he said, rejecting the idea that the OPAP deal might be reversed as a result of Stavridis’s resignation.

The finance ministry official confirmed the OPAP deal would not be affected and the Stavridis’s resignation was for “ethical reasons.”

Stavridis’s predecessor Takis Athanasopoulos stepped down after he was charged by a prosecutor with breach of duty over his former role as chairman of a state utility. [Reuters]