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Wasteful practices in foundations under the protection of George Papandreou

19 February 2014 / 14:02:05  GRReporter
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By order of the prosecutor’s office the economic police have started inspections in 6,000 non-governmental organizations to establish how they used the millions of euro they had received in the form of funding from the Greek government. The inspections will be carried out especially in organizations that had received large sums of money, namely more than 5 million euro, in the period after the year 2000. "Kathimerini" newspaper reports that the checks started a year and a half ago by order of Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time Dimitris Avramopoulos and covered the period from the year 2000 to 2010, when around 176 NGOs had received funding to the amount of 70 million euro from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government institutions.

The investigation results of two cases have already been submitted to the judicial authorities. They are related to the organizations "Kiklos tis Patmou" ("Circle of Patmos") and "International De-mining Centre" which has become infamous for financing former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic who is charged with genocide and crimes against humanity.

Fourteen members of the "Circle of Patmos" have been charged with felony. The activity of the organization was to strengthen the link between religion and ecology. For these purposes, the organization had held conferences and symposia on board ships sailing on the Danube River, in the Caspian Sea and in other regions, and received funding to the amount of 9.5 million euro from various sources, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the state lottery OPAP and others. The investigation shows that the money was not used as intended but for the personal benefit of some members of the organization.

The judicial investigation of "International De-mining Centre" is in its initial stages. According to sources no indictments against those involved in the suspicious activities of the organization have been prepared yet. The only person arrested in this case is its president Konstantinos Tzevelekos who, after testifying before the investigator, has been imprisoned before trial. In parallel, the authorities have blocked his bank accounts and levied a disitraint on his immovable property in Athens and Rhodes. The judicial authorities are continuing the investigation to reveal the guilt of all participants in the fraud that cost the treasury 9,000,000 euro. Many of them are former and active diplomats.

The revelations about the political parties involved in the case are continuing too. The frauds involving the NGOs had occurred during the term of George Papandreou at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2000-2004) whereas his close collaborator Alex Rondos had headed the ministerial service "International Cooperation Development", which was approving the funding of NGOs.

An article in "To Vima" newspaper states this is not news, as the case was the reason for the resignation of Deputy Foreign Minister at the time Yiannis Zafiropoulos. On 21 January 2002, he had sent a letter to Prime Minister of the time Costas Simitis, describing in it his doubts on the actions of Alex Rondos in connection with large sums of money, which he managed as head of the service.

The author of the article in "To Vima", Vassilis Lambropoulos, presents additional data for the close associates of Radovan Karadzic, who were connected with the organization "International De-mining Centre." They are the results of the investigation carried out by the multinational peacekeeping force SFOR from 2003 to 2005.

They make it clear that the former bodyguard of Karadzic originally was a security guard of leader of the Serbian paramilitary group "Tigers" Zeljko Raznatovic, better known by his nickname Arkan, who was assassinated in Belgrade in the year 2000. There is evidence of his connections with Greek businessmen and members of the underworld, who were killed too. Tesic then worked for the leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia, Dragan Kalinic, and later joined the security guard of Radovan Karadzic who was wanted by Interpol.

The investigation carried out by SFOR indicated that, since the beginning of 2001, Tesic had cooperated with the Greek NGO and its representative Panos Kastoras who was also in charge of the region of Bosnia. Subsequently, he had held a series of meetings with its president Konstantinos Tzevelekos.

Although he did not refer to the name of the organization, resigning Deputy Minister Zafiropoulos had actually drawn attention to the scandalous funding. In his words, "From 1998 to 2000 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had approved funding to the amount of 3.5 billion drachmas (9,000,000 euro – author’s note) to non-governmental organizations with extremely non-transparent procedures." In his statements for "Ta Nea" newspaper in 2002, Zafiropoulos stressed that he had "totally contradicted" Minister George Papandreou on this issue.

However, Prime Minister of the time Costas Simitis, who was on a visit to Sofia at that time, stated that he did not support the opinion of Zafiropoulos but that of Papandreou. "The difference is that Mr. Zafiropoulos wanted more frequent checks of the specific activities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by the special services whereas Mr. Papandreou was for milder procedures," added Simitis.

Tags: Crime newsFundingNon-governmental organizationsMinistry of Foreign AffairsGeorge PapandreouAlex RondosArkanRadovan Karadzic
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