Casino affair opens again

Hotel and casino group Hyatt Regency yesterday expressed confidence that criminal charges filed against anyone responsible for alleged irregularities over its acquisition of a 49 percent stake in the Mont Parnes casino outside Athens in 2002 would not survive the scrutiny of justice. «The tender was approved under fully transparent and lawful procedures to the consortium controlled by our company,» Hyatt said in a statement, adding that it had full confidence in Greek justice. The charges, filed by public prosecutor Dimitris Asprogerakas, are for fraud, breach of faith and the embezzlement of public funds by officials of state-controlled Hellenic Tourism Properties (ETA), which had issued the tender. Hyatt Regency, operator of a hotel and casino in Thessaloniki, won the tender in a consortium with construction group Hellenic Technodomiki at the end of 2001. But the finalization of the sale was delayed for months by a legal challenge by the losing bidder, the consortium of Piraeus Bank and Hotel Casino Loutraki, which claimed opaque procedures. The case was shelved by a judge who found that no offense had been committed but was reopened by another prosecutor last summer, resulting in charges for dereliction of duty against members of the evaluation committees which considered and approved the sale. The charges filed yesterday were complementary. Hyatt said Greek courts have already dismissed the losing bidder’s claims five times, including two by the Council of State. Further, it said that the State Legal Council had also found the process fully lawful, as did the European Commission, twice. An investigating judge will determine the persons responsible for any wrongdoing.

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