NEWS

Stock bubble judge investigated

A judge who investigated allegations of stock manipulation during the boom of 1999 is herself the focus of a judicial inquiry regarding claims of impropriety. Investigating judge Constantina Bourboulia conducted an inquiry into 23 stock exchange «bubbles,» in which shares in specific companies shot up without apparent reason during the bull run which was followed by a seemingly endless slide that began in late 1999. She said last March that she was resigning because of health reasons. During the probe, Bourboulia appeared fastidious and rigid in trying to get to the bottom of the case. Now a prosecutor is investigating how some cases were closed hurriedly and whether Bourboulia was influenced by the fact that she was having an affair with a lawyer who represented some of those she was investigating. Elias Bogdanos, the owner of a suburban brokerage, Active AHEPEY, claimed to Bourboulias’s superiors that she had ordered him held in custody after she was blackmailed by a former partner and rival of his, Costas Avramidis. Avramidis, himself under investigation, reportedly knew that Bourboulia was having an affair with lawyer Stavros Koumentakis, who represented some others in the case. Deputy appeals court prosecutor Giorgos Koliokostas ordered a preliminary investigation. Such probes are held to determine whether claims have any basis. Irrespective of whether Bourboulia is guilty of any impropriety, it is significant that the investigation into the alleged stock manipulation led to most of the cases being closed without coming to trial. One of the problems is that the judicial «weaponry» is weak. The only felony tied to stock manipulation is that of fraud, and investigators have to prove that someone did something to manipulate stocks so that someone would gain and someone else would lose. This is difficult to prove. Other crimes, such as breach of faith, are misdemeanors and do not lead to imprisonment. One of the most striking cases is that of Tasoglou-de Longhi, whose shares shot up 336 percent between March 1999 and April 1999. In this case the judicial authorities cooperated with the Capital Markets Commission, which presented all the relevant evidence, but the case also revealed the relationship between the investigating judge and the lawyer of some of those under investigation. In July 2002 the Capital Markets Commission fined Tasoglou-de Longhi and Active 15.2 million euros and ordered an investigation into any criminal acts by Spyros Tasoglou, Elias Bogdanos, Ioannis Moustos, Dimitrios Ranios and Avramidis for insider trading and allegedly issuing false information to the public. Omega AHEPEY, Kontalexis Financial Services, Panayiotis Kontalexis (represented by Koumentakis), Iordanis Arzoglou, Elias Kokkinos and Lucas Mizaris were fined another 4.5 million. The commission’s probe found that most of the Tasoglou-de Longhi shares bought during the 336 percent rise were by customers of Active, especially by Mizaris, who is the owner’s cousin, and Bogdanos, who advised Mizaris. They allegedly had insider knowledge as the company had announced on April 4, 1999 that it would increase its share capital and offer three new shares for each old one. Avramidis told the commission that Tasoglou and Bogdanos advised him to buy shares as the company would be entering partnerships with large foreign companies – offering him inside information. These purported buyouts turned out to be false. Bogdanos was the only one to be jailed, for a few months. Ranios, Moustos and Avramidis are hiding and the rest were cleared.