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Closed hotels and travel agencies were draining money for social tourism

18 April 2012 / 18:04:31  GRReporter
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"Trade" in vouchers for social tourism issued by the Agricultural Insurance Organization was revealed during an inspection in the fund. The vouchers were sold on the Internet or were submitted to travel agencies in exchange for trips abroad. All this resulted in significant losses for the farmers’ fund and the case will be sent to court.

It is very indicative of the dimensions of plundering of insurance funds by fraudulent networks over the years. Moreover, it is only adding to the list of other cases of pensions, allowances and other "aids" for fictitiously insured individuals.

In this case, hotel owners submitted vouchers for social tourism to the fund and required the relevant amounts, but no persons insured with the fund had stayed in those hotels. The inspection revealed that during those days, either the hotels had been closed, or the persons insured with the fund had never visited them.

In certain cases, some of the insured persons sold their vouchers to travel agencies or exchanged them for trips abroad. Some others sold them on the Internet at a not very low price. The system operated as follows: Insured farmers received social tourism vouchers worth 150 euro. Then, they sold them to travel agencies, and they, in turn, sold them to hotels and rooms for rent. So, their owners received the money from the insurance fund.

In many cases, hotels with 30 rooms, which could take up to 60 visitors, stated that many more visitors had stayed on one and the same day.

"Just recently, in March, a hotel stated it took 140 insured persons in a day although its capacity is not more than 60 people. When controlling authorities went to check it, they found out that the hotel was not operating," said president of the insurance fund Panagiotis Petroulas.

According to sources, 30 hotels were inspected at first and violations were identified in 25 of them, which is indicative of the fraud’s dimensions. It involved hotel owners, travel agencies and persons insured with the farmers’ fund, who were cooperating to the detriment of the fund.

The Agricultural Insurance Organization has ceased all payments to hotels and tourist accommodations, where violations were found, until the completion of inspections. At the same time, the fund management has issued an order imposing administrative penalties for all employees involved in the fraud and has required the documents of the case to be sent to the prosecutor’s office.

Panagiotis Petroulas stated that six thousand pensioners had not taken part in the census. In his opinion, this means that they are not real persons probably and others receive pensions on their behalf. The same happened with the three thousand persons receiving allowances for having many children.

The fund does not know the estimated amount of losses from the fraud with social tourism vouchers, but the total amount for the programme is 20 million euro. Detailed inspections concerning hotels, travel agencies and insured persons, which benefited from the programme, have started throughout the country.

The management of the insurance fund is discussing a sweeping change of the system granting and controlling social tourism vouchers.

Tags: SocietyAgricultural Insurance OrganizationSocial tourism vouchersFraudHotels
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