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Abuse at the Greek National Tourism Organization

30 December 2012 / 14:12:07  GRReporter
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The Greek Tourism Organization filed a claim for attempted embezzlement following the order of the Minister of Tourism Olga Kefaloyani after a group of five people was arrested for embezzlement. The Organization is trying to avoid the attention it has recently drawn to itself and its general secretary Panos Livadas states that there are no permanent employees of the Organization among those arrested.  These protective actions, however, do not explain how a close associate of the former general secretary was able to have at his disposal a book of cheques of the Organization, which he signed, counterfeiting, as the report has it, the signature of Nikos Karahalios. Karahalios himself, whose associate was the arrested Konstantinos Vasilakos, will appear before an investigator to testify. He claims that the arrest of the group is just a drop in the ocean and the tip of the iceberg of illegal activities taking place in the Greek Tourism Organization. People close to Karahalios state that the arrested members of the group are amateurs and they have been detained to avoid reaching the professionals, and that revelations about people and developments from the upper echelons of the organization will be made in the days ahead. Karahalios says in his statements that some circles have undertaken a smear campaign against him in order to hurt him politically and socially. As for the counterfeit signatures, he argues that justice will deliver its judgment and declines to comment on them.

The developments started with the arrest of five people, holding important positions in the state and private sectors, for the embezzlement of thousands of euro from the funds of the Greek National Tourism Organization. Konstantinos Vasilakos, a special adviser to the general secretary Nikos Karahalios, was the head of the fraud with the cheques. The skein began to unravel after Karahalios left the Organization following his split with Minister Olga Kefaloyani for the thousands of euro spent on a flashmob in London and for inviting the gymnast Gianna Darili. Apparently, one could not rely on Karahalios’ "right hand" - after the general secretary left, his adviser acted uncontrollably, having had the chequebook of the organization at his disposal. It is being currently investigated whether Karahalios knew what his assistant was doing. So far, it is known that those arrested issued cheques to shady firms, thus embezzling money from the funds of the tourism organization.

The fraud was revealed when a female member of the group tried last Friday to cash a cheque for 147 thousand euro issued by the Greek National Tourism Organization and signed by Karahalios (currently, it is being verified whether the cheque is regular), saying that this was money a hotelier from the Island of Syros was to receive. The employee processing the cheque called the Organization to obtain its approval and the Organization called the owner of the hotel, who informed them that the Greek Tourist Organization owed him nothing. The adviser received the chequebook in violation of the rules. The same day, the present general secretary Panos Livadas brought an accusation against an unknown perpetrator at the Directorate for Investigation of Economic Crime in Attica. A businessman was involved in the group with whom the former secretary Karahalios had got in touch, proposing that he establish shady firms to generate profits at the expense of the Tourism Organization.

The adviser to the former secretary and four individuals have been arrested so far and the charges against them are of the formation of a criminal organization, attempted fraud, forgery, plus Vasilakos has been indicted for embezzlement.

Meanwhile, it has become clear that Konstantinos Vasilakos will remain in custody following the decision of the examining magistrate. Another two of those arrested will remain detained with him including one woman, whereas the other two have been released on bail.

Tags: Greek Tourism OrganizationPanos LivadisKonstantinos VasilakosNikos KarahaliosEmbezzlement
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