OPINION

Corporate fraud

Shocking are the findings of the inspection carried out by the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) on the firms and businesses that have so far been implicated in the political and economic scandal that has swept the country: Fake invoices generated by Athanassios Athanassoulis’s Altec group for over 16 billion drachmas’ worth of supposed exports, fake invoices to publisher Giorgos Kouris for fictitious services, fabricated private contracts and numerous other offenses. The snowballing revelations of the entanglement between senior government cadres and Athanassoulis have caused a huge scandal, as this relationship enabled a considerable number of deputies to make quick money in what constitutes politically reprehensive and, perhaps, criminally punishable conduct. The corruption scandal dramatically underscores the total paralysis of Greece’s monitoring bodies. When a listed company, which is supposedly subject to strict monitoring according to international standards, is proven to have submitted fake invoices, one can only imagine the «plunder» that took place during the period of «irrational exuberance» caused by the stock market boom in 1999. It is hard to believe that the irregularities were limited to one company. It is most likely that similar practices occurred at many other listed companies, whose owners now ought to be in jail. As a result, trillions of drachmas in capital from unsuspecting investors – in many cases the savings of a lifetime – were sucked up via such illegal methods. The problem, however, concerns more than the rapacity or the dishonesty of some businessmen. The main issue is the absence of control on behalf of the responsible bodies so as to nip such phenomena in the bud. Of course, it is too optimistic to expect any monitoring whatsoever when deputies themselves prove to be not only entangled in shady networks but even housed by businessmen accused of corporate fraud. When the top echelons of power are mired in corruption, it is naive to demand effective monitoring at the lower levels, even if we assume that lowly employees do not imitate their superiors and try to beat back the storm of corruption with isolated acts. Needless to say, their attempts are hindered from above. But there comes a time when not everything so obvious can be concealed. Maybe that time has come.