ECONOMY

Beauty center group conned employees, State

A business group, comprising a chain of beauty centers and a beauticians’ training college, is accused of several violations of the law, including offering bogus diplomas, forging signatures of the students and forcing the employees to take consumer loans to buy shares in a company that was never listed on the Athens Stock Exchange. Two months ago, the Avgerinopoulou group – owner of the Beauty & Diet chain and the Avgerinopoulou IEK (the training college) – had announced it was facing severe economic difficulties. In fact, the group’s 1,600 employees have not been paid for four months. An attempt by the group’s president, Nota Avgerinopoulou, to woo investors fell through and she is now claiming to be negotiating with a Spanish group. Group employees yesterday told a tale of severe legal infractions in a press conference at the premises of the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE). Flanked by GSEE officials, they told reporters they were going to petition a court to declare the company bankrupt so they could salvage the wages owed to them. The employees have also filed a report to a lower court prosecutor and the financial crimes squad (SDOE) about a series of illegal actions by Avgerinopoulou. The group had created a bogus list of students at the beauticians’ school and presented their «signatures» to banks such as the Agricultural Bank to get loans in the name of the students. The company then presented these loans as fees paid to the school, thereby inflating its financial position. The group’s owner exerted pressure on employees – using their supervisors to threaten them with sacking – in order to make them take out commercial loans at 3,000 euros apiece. The employees were to use the loans to buy shares in a company, Jurby International SA, which was supposed to be listed on the Athens Stock Exchange. Such a company never materialized but many employees turned over their money to Avgerinopoulou and signed a preliminary contract stating they had paid for the shares they were to get in the future. The group also provided certificates of vocational training to students who either never attended the school or did not finish it. Apparently, some payment was involved in exchange.