Fraud squad swoops on Altec, Kouris

The falling-out between two former partners in a television station, which has led to the allegations by one that senior members of the ruling party had close ties with the other, took on another dimension yesterday when the Finance Ministry police announced that both were involved in serious irregularities. The ministry’s fraud squad (SDOE) said that an audit of the Altec computer firm found fake invoices worth 16 billion drachmas (47 million euros) for fake exports and services to companies in Belgium and the USA in 1999 and 2000. The audit, which began on February 14 this year, followed claims of improprieties at Altec by Avriani newspaper publisher Giorgos Kouris. The publisher and Altec owner Athanassios Athanassoulis have clashed over the ownership of Alter television, which, like Altec, is listed on the Athens Stock Exchange. The Capital Markets Commission is to examine the Altec case today as the fake invoices distorted the company’s 1999 and 2000 results. Banks are also said to be weighing their options, as Altec’s liabilities in 2002 were 301.98 million euros. The fraud squad found also that A. Kouris and G. Kouris, on the one hand, and A. Pavlopoulou and D. Koutra (representing Athanassoulis) had signed a private and secret agreement worth 1.9 billion drachmas (5.6 million euros) for the latter to buy 50 percent of the company owning Alter. Also, Kouris was found to have issued fake tax returns worth 2.1 billion drachmas (6.1 million euros), to have evaded paying salary taxes (worth 212 million drachmas or 622,000 euros) and withheld VAT worth 2.8 billion drachmas (8.2 million euros). Kouris claimed the government was after him, but that he feared nothing. Altec rejected SDOE’s allegations, saying its «transactions were real and completely legal.» Press Minister Christos Protopappas is to file suit today against Kouris for claiming that he got 200 million drachmas (587,000 euros) from Athanassoulis for his 1996 election campaign. Yesterday, the minister denied a claim by Avriani that he was building a house worth 1 billion drachmas (3 million euros). The house is a two-story building in Vrilissia, covering 185 sq.m.