Church must return tsunami aid

The Foreign Ministry has asked the Orthodox Church’s charity organization Allileghii (Solidarity) to return more than 6 million euros that had been destined for victims of the December 2004 tsunami amid speculation that the funds were not used on food aid as had been intended. Deputy Foreign Minister Petros Doukas asked for the return of the funds last week but has received a letter from the organization which allegedly claims to be unable to return more than 500,000 euros. The ministry had given the 6 million euros to the organization to spend on purchasing chickens from Greek producers – in a bid to kill two birds with one stone by supporting producers who had seen their sales plummet due to fear of the bird flu virus. The chickens were then, theoretically, to be sent to tsunami victims. It is unclear exactly what happened to the money. But Allileghii and the chicken producers’ union are locked in a dispute with the former claiming to have received moldy chickens and the latter saying it has only been paid a fraction of what it is owed by the Church organization. Several clerics have questioned the operations of Allileghii in the past. «I had sensed that things were not going right and lodged a complaint,» Bishop of Zakynthos Chrysostomos told Kathimerini yesterday. «The (organization’s) refusal to offer explanations to the (Holy) Synod raised my suspicions,» he added. In September 2006, the Foreign Ministry said that two-thirds of the 15 million euros Greece collected to help the tsunami victims had not reached its destination due to security concerns regarding foreign officials in the region. Similar delays were reported in other countries as well.