Knowing when to stop and when to not

The case that is being built up against Lavrentis Lavrentiadis – accused of issuing bad loans through Proton Bank in order to prop up his other businesses – is significant and should be prosecuted to the end. Some fear that this could drag down members of the political establishment. But Greece must change, at whatever cost and this fear should not stand in the way of that.

Lavrentiadis is obviously a very clever man who did what many other businessmen such as himself were doing during the good times. The difference is that he didn’t know when to stop.

What makes his case especially interesting is that it exposes the lackadaisical stance of every single regulatory authority involved over a period of many years. The question, of course, is to what extent this attitude was due to ineptitude or was politically motivated.

The fact is that Lavrentiadis was able to trick and even buy off allies well outside Greece’s borders, including the powerful, Washington-based Carlyle investment group, which purchased a shell company for hundreds of millions of euros. Even respected European banks published raves about Lavrentiadis’s companies, without conducting comprehensive investigations into the numbers. Also impressive was the fact that an inadequate American diplomat who was ousted from the State Department headed one of Lavrentiadis’s banks. This all serves as a reminder that while there are many devils in Greece, not everyone outside it is an angel.

It’s impossible to know how the case will develop, but the fact is that the underpaid auditors and prosecutors in the case have done their jobs well. What will be most interesting is to learn how Lavrentiadis cheated the system, how he operated and how he managed to get where he did. The aim is to reach a point where a case such as this one is not just an opportunity to pull a few skeletons out of the closet, fling some mud and generate a bit of juicy gossip. Greece became the mess that it is today mainly because a part of its business elite behaved without qualms and inhibitions, as if there were no tomorrow. And it would never have been able to if it didn’t have political backing and didn’t enjoy the complicity of the state and the financial system.

We now have a first-class opportunity to investigate why politicians, the state and the media allowed this scandal to reach such proportions. It is important because at the end of the day, the losses incurred by Proton Bank will be paid for by Greek and other European taxpayers.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.