The former chairman of the Hellenic Postbank stands accused of issuing dubious loans to befriended business partners under preferential terms. The bad deals are said to have cost the Greek people some 400 million euros.
The full extent of the affair is still unclear. But what is known so far is that state prosecutors are examining allegations that the former chairman of Hellenic Postbank, Angelos Filippidis, approved numerous loans to companies that had previously failed credit checks. As a result, Greek taxpayers are said to have been burdened with losses totaling some 400 million euros. Filippidis also stands accused of having accepted bribes for issuing his approvals.
Thirty-nine people are currently being investigated in connection with the Postbank affair. The bank was once a quasi-government financial institution owned and operated by the Greek postal service. Two former deputy directors have been arrested in Athens. Filippidis was detained in Istanbul, leading to rumors that he had squirreled away the money he allegedly received in bribes in Turkish banks. Athens prosecutors are also looking into allegations of secret accounts in Switzerland and Montenegro.
"In Filippidis' case, the issuance of loans began in 2008 and contradicted standard business practices at the Postbank, which until then, at least, had operated on a rather smaller scale," according to business analyst, Panagiotis Bousbourellis.
Of course, it's not illegal to change policy, but the Greek national bank had warned the Postbank against making unnecessarily risky investments. Those warnings went unheeded, Bousbourellis said.
To the rescue?
The Greek national stability mechanism was forced to shell out five billion euros to protect the financial institution from bankruptcy And it doesn't make matters any easier for prosecutors that the head of that fund, Anastassia Sakellariou, was on the board of the Postbank two years ago.
Nevertheless, Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras has voiced his support for Sakellariou, saying he had "complete faith" in the justice system and in his colleague.
The proximity between politics and the economy is nothing new in Greece, said journalist and former government spokesman, Dimitris Tziodras. There have been cases in the past in which company representatives received government money under preferential terms, or that bribes were offered in exchange for state-funded contracts.
"We must not forget that the Postbank used to be a state-owned institution; the board was named by the government," said an emphatic Tziodras.
'Triangle of corruption'
The journalist Bousbourellis, meanwhile, notes the close relationship between party politicians and public administrators, pointing out that former Postbank chairman Filippidis was personally selected by then Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis. Only after the change in power in 2009 was Filippidis replaced - by Kleon Papadopoulos, a personal friend of the newly elected Prime Minister Giorgos Papandreou.