Spotlight on stock bubble intensifies

In great secrecy, the Supreme Court has been holding a major investigation into the stock market bubble of 1999, the possible culpability of the Capital Market Commission and the Athens Stock Exchange as well as all other known or unknown participants in the time of the stock market’s frenzy. Reliable sources say that in August the deputy prosecutor of the country’s top court, Giorgos Zorbas, instructed the top prosecutor of the Athens Court of Appeals, Petros Verrios, to conduct an investigation into 11 companies. Reports which had reached the Supreme Court claimed that these companies played a leading role in the stock bubble. After Dimitris Linos’s recent appointment as supreme court prosecutor, he named deputy appeals court prosecutor Vassilis Pliotas to head the inquiry. Linos is said to know the issue well, including the problem of some cases gathering dust, the fragmentation of the investigation and the general difficulties caused by the prosecution of judge Constantina Bourboulia for alleged misconduct while leading the stock exchange probe. Bourboulia resigned in early September. The investigation is now said to be going well, with the assistance of experts. The prosecutor’s document ordering the probe describes instances of fraud and violations of stock exchange regulations and calls for an investigation into cases of stock manipulation, insider trading, fraudulent exchanges of shares, the spreading of rumors, and so on. According to the document, the investigation is being conducted into Lampsa SA, General Warehouses (later renamed Ethniki Real Estate), Lambrakis Press, Hellenic Sugar Industry, Klonatex, Altec, Alter, Microland and unlisted investment companies Tetraktys, Astraia and Worldwide. Among these companies, for example, General Warehouses stock rose 5,000 percent in 1999 and by November of that year its capitalization had climbed to 679 billion drachmas from 13.5 billion. Between August and October 1999, Lambrakis Press’s stock rose 802 percent and its capitalization, from 222 billion drachmas soared to 2 trillion drachmas.