State agency blocks permit for company

Just six days after Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis used strong words to assert that five – unnamed – businessmen had acquired unduly high political clout, Greece’s broadcasting watchdog yesterday refused to clear a state contract for a firm owned by the son of one of a top media baron. The National Broadcasting Council (ESR) voted against issuing a «certificate of transparency» – a document confirming that a public contractor is in line with laws withholding state contracts from media barons – to the Aktor SA construction firm, Greece’s largest, which carried out most of the major public works in Attica ahead of the Olympics. Aktor is owned by Leonidas Bobolas, son of media baron Giorgos Bobolas who owns the Ethnos daily newspaper, as well as a 21 percent stake in Mega TV – one of Greece’s most influential private television channels. The 280,000-euro contract in question yesterday was awarded by the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee for maintenance work on one of the Olympic media villages in Pallini, on the capital’s eastern fringes. The work has already been completed. A 4-3 majority of ESR members voted to withhold the «transparency certificate» from Aktor. In three cases, the reasons cited were purely formal. But ESR member Rodolfos Moronis, who supplied the fourth vote, argued that he had cause to believe that Aktor was more closely linked to Bobolas’s publishing interests than is officially obvious. Moronis said that, on the one hand, Leonidas and Giorgos Bobolas held a joint bank account in 1995. On the other, he argued, Aktor’s correspondence with Leonidas Bobolas had been delivered to his father’s postal address. In both cases, Moronis’s information was apparently provided by the businessman Prodromos Emfietzoglou, owner of another large construction firm, Michaniki SA. Emfietzoglou had written several times to ESR, asking for transparency certificates to be withheld from Aktor. Aktor said it would take the case to court, adding that it had received 100 ESR transparency certificates over the past three years.

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