NEWS

Premises are auctioned off for a pittance when owners cannot keep up with loan repayments

One Wednesday, in a town hall in a part of Attica, a bottling plant on a 5-hectare property valued at about 2.9 million euros (1 billion drachmas) is to be auctioned off. The bank which has taken possession of the property has set a very low starting price – just 264,000 euros (90 million drachmas). When its representatives arrive at the auction at noon, the hall is empty. None of the usual «vultures» are there, but at around 1.30 p.m., two limousines pull up at the town hall and representatives of a powerful Greek industrial outfit emerge. By 2 p.m., it has acquired the property for a few thousand euros above the starting price. A few months later, the factory’s equipment alone is sold for 8.7 million euros (3 billion drachmas). Another Wednesday, another auction. The bank’s representative arrives at noon and asks the auctioneer the whereabouts of the notary public in charge of the sale, which involves a property with a market value estimated at 440,000 euros. The bank makes a competitive bid (250,000 euros), so the property can be sold at a price that will cover its costs. The auctioneer tells the bank employee that the auction has been postponed. The bank clerk, who has no experience of these things, leaves only to learn the next day that the property has been sold for 73,000 euros. The bank holds its employee responsible, the employee blames the auctioneer, who claims he has never seen him before and the bank employee narrowly escapes dismissal. Another Wednesday, another municipality. «Watch out, because today all hell will break loose,» the chief vulture tells the notary public. This time it is a prime property, with bids starting at 300,000 euros. The auction – and the «negotiations» – begin at 1.45 p.m. As usual, the vultures fight among themselves as to who is to withdraw and at what price, and who is to bid for the property, but cannot reach agreement on the «withdrawal fee.» As they argue, the head vulture tears the jacket of one of his «colleagues,» threats fly back and forth and the situation gets out of hand. The female notary public desperately tries to re-establish order. «You can’t tell me what to do in here!» yells the chief vulture, pulling her to her feet, and opening his jacket to show her his gun, then pulling up his trouser leg to show a concealed knife. And all this inside the town hall. Naturally, he gets away with it.