Twenty five olive oil producers who stored their production in an agricultural cooperative in Polygyros, northern Greece, from where it recently disappeared have filed criminal charges against unknown persons with the security police asking authorities to investigate how this happened and who is behind it.
The missing olive oil is valued at over 370,000 euros.
The producers, who gave their sworn depositions on Thursday, said their olive oil was not stolen but was sold earlier and then could not be replaced. “The producers said the same thing happened last year, but then they were able to replace it with additional olive oil. This year they couldn’t do it because of low fruit setting,” Thanasis Yovanoudas, the lawyer who represents them, told Kathimerini.
The olive oil of his clients alone weighed 25 tons, while the total amount that disappeared was not 37 tons, as the Olive Oil Farming Cooperative claims, but 52, of which only a part belonged to the cooperative.
“The cooperative simply stored the olive oil and the producer go go there whenever he wanted and ask for olive oil,” he said, adding that the producers complained that recently they would ask to fill 30 tins and were only given 5-6 by the cooperative.
Both olive producers and other people in the field note that it would be very difficult to steal such a quantity without being noticed. Yovanoudas said that only a tank truck could move such a large quantity of olive oil, which could not be noticed by the neighborhood, as the cooperative is located in a residential area.
He also said that the cooperative did not have security cameras and the only material available is from the cameras of neighboring houses which, according to him, do not show anything suspicious.
Thomas Kaplanis, a lawyer for the cooperative, argues that the theft may not have happened in one day and that the oil may have been transferred gradually. He says his client realized something had happened on Sunday night when he saw the doors of the cooperative open. He called security, who inspected the area and recorded the incident.
A producer with knowledge of the operation of the cooperative who wanted to remain anonymous said that the key word behind what is happening is “mismanagement.”
“Cooperatives suffer from chronic problems. They have debts from the past and often more expenses than revenues,” he told Kathimerini. With skyrocketing operating expenses, “the cooperative was like a grenade. At some point it would explode.”