The yard of the villa of the main organizer of the fraud in the Athens suburb of Barnabas; photo: tovima.gr
Thousands of ghost twins "born" to persons insured with the branch of the Social Insurance Institute IKA in the Athens suburb of Kallithea seem to have betrayed the big fraud, costing tens of millions of euro. It involved executives in the insurance fund and their relatives.
Such illegal activities apparently have been carried out in other branches of IKA and the competent supervisory authorities will make thorough inspections. There are cases of fictitiously insured persons, who received a childbirth benefit to the amount of 120,000 euro without having ever given birth. Some women have even been seriously ill and pregnant at the same time, having received benefits for both conditions, without being in either of them.
The investigation conducted so far shows that those involved in the fraud have "recruited" individuals in a slimming centre regularly visited by the female executives of the IKA branch in Kallithea, who are the main characters in the fraud. Indicative of its scale is the fact that the inspectors of IKA have found about 1,200 cases of visits to this centre for which no invoice was issued.
The Greek daily To Vima published a part of the file on the case. The testimony of Maria Gavgiotaki, responsible for the electronic system of IKA, which she gave on 26 January and 8 February this year and which revealed, analyzed and informed about the fraud in the branch in Kallithea, were highly denouncing. The case file describes how thousands of nonexistent twins have revealed the well-organized fraud.
"It all became clear after the introduction of the new electronic Risk Analysis system in November 2011, which showed suspicious and illegal activities on the basis of input data from 2008 onwards. Since its introduction, we got a scheme revealing suspicious connections between the insured persons. I can give the example of an employee, who received sickness benefits for a period when he apparently was at work.
Another example is the extremely high number of benefits for pregnancy with twins. The first branch, in which we found such cases, was that in Kallithea. We chose a casual employee and found that from August 2005 to April 2011 that person had not only been at work regularly but had also received benefits for both sickness and maternity."
Then, the person responsible for the internal control in IKA revealed the family relations in the fraud and almost the entire family tree of its 'brains'.
"A relative of one of those accused of organizing the fraud in IKA received a childbirth benefit in March 2006, when in fact she has only two children born in 1984 and 1987. That woman received treatment benefits without submitting the necessary hospital records and was regularly at work in the same period. Although she took up insurance in September 2006, she had begun receiving benefits in 2003. The daughter of this particular woman received benefits for two childbirths in a period of eight months, although she is not married. Her husband received benefits to the amount of 88,113 euro, although he was not insured with IKA at all. Another citizen related to the defendants received large amounts of money to treat himself and his children, and benefits for two childbirths, although he worked at that time and there is no evidence that he has any children. All these persons have withdrawn 720,000 euro in an unlawful manner."
Among the numerous cases, particularly striking is that of a person close to one of the defendants, who received 116,900 euro for a birth that never happened and who has never been insured. Another man involved received 186,567 euro for a number of births, while in fact he has two children.
"The brother of one of the defendants received benefits amounting to 49,550 euro without having been insured, an additional childbirth benefit without having any children and a benefit for emergency hospital treatment without submitting hospital records. His daughter did receive a childbirth benefit, although she is not married and has no children. His brother managed to get a pension from IKA, but we found that a large number of the years of service were stolen from the record of service of another insured person."
Impressive is the testimony that a 45-year man insured with IKA gave on 14 February. He received large amounts from the institute and one of the accused women was his first witness at his wedding.
"I remember very well how in late 2003 - early 2004, having in mind my poor financial situation, she proposed to issue and take some aid on my behalf with the understanding to give me in exchange a small part of the total amount. I asked her if this is legal and whether there was any risk to me. She stated firmly that it would be legal and there would be no risk.
She reassured me, telling me that in the same legal way she had provided cash for other acquaintances and friends of hers without any problem. Now as I think back, it was a mistake to accept this but I had no choice, because at that time, I had two small children and as I said, my finances were in poor condition.
I remember that she began issuing orders for payment in early 2004. She called me and told me to go to the branch, where she worked and once she gave me some papers, I received some amounts without ever having to fill out a form personally and without submitting any documents. I kept a small portion of the amount, put the rest of the money in an envelope and handed it over to the employee in front of the branch of IKA in Kallithea, where we met. My wife and mother-in-law received benefits in the same way."