NEWS

Billions go missing at state bank

At least four senior officials in a small state bank’s subsidiary that dealt with liquidating ailing companies’ assets have embezzled billions of drachmas from firms that passed through their hands, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis told a press conference yesterday. The minister called the figures involved «significant» but declined to elaborate. But sources said that the officials in ETBA Finance – a subsidiary of the Hellenic Bank for Industrial Development (ETBA), which is currently in the process of being sold to Bank of Piraeus – may well have appropriated over 10 billion drachmas. ETBA suspended four ETBA Finance officials suspected of implication in the scandal, and is investigating significantly more ETBA Finance officials. Sources identified the four as company managing director Spyros Stephanatos, general manager G. Karayiannidis, chief accountant Dimitrios Frangodimitropoulos and financial officer Georgia Sbarouni. The embezzlement was discovered by a – newly appointed – chartered accountant auditing the company’s books as part of the process of ETBA’s privatization. Apparently, the first indication that something was seriously wrong came when a request to be shown an expired repurchase agreement (repo) worth 200 million drachmas was met by the accounting department with a promise to furnish it in two days. Subsequent investigations carried out by the Ministry of Finance’s financial crime squad (SDOE) revealed that the missing funds came from the liquidation of assets belonging to companies such as the Peiraiki Patraiki textile giant and the Business Restructuring Organization. ETBA Finance officials were supposed to sell off the companies’ assets on behalf of the state and deposit the cash in a Eurobank account. But a lot of the money was siphoned off through the owner of a bucket-shop brokerage (a brokerage not allowed to trade on the stock exchange directly) only identified as Dimitriadis into another bank account. Dimitriadis, who pretended to represent Eurobank, invested the cash in repos, time deposits or – allegedly through Avax Securities – in the Athens bourse.ETBA Finance’s books were found to contain numerous forged deposit receipts.