Archdiocese Releases Statement on George Papadakos’ Case

NEW YORK — The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America released a statement saying that the Archdiocese “is committed to full transparency” after U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that George Papadakos, the Archdiocese’s former Director of Finance, has pled guilty to embezzling more than $60,000 of Archdiocesan funds for personal expenses.

“As previously communicated to the Faithful by the Archdiocese, after becoming aware of financial irregularities in late 2017, the Archdiocese self-reported its discoveries to governmental authorities in the State of New York.  In the Spring of 2018, the Archdiocese was contacted by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and the Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.  Since that time, the Archdiocese has worked cooperatively with their offices.

“The US Attorney’s Office announced today that George Papadakos, the Archdiocese’s former Director of Finance, has pled guilty to embezzling more than $60,000 of Archdiocesan funds for personal expenses.  According to the government’s publicly posted report, Mr. Papadakos, of Westfield, New Jersey, pled guilty to one count of wire fraud.  Mr. Papadakos left the Archdiocese in the Fall of 2017.

“‘The Archdiocese is committed to full transparency with governmental authorities and continues to cooperate fully with the United States Attorney and U.S. Postal Inspection Service,’ said Bishop Andonios, Chancellor of the Archdiocese.”

Unheard Song from Queen Frontman Freddie Mercury Released (Video)

NEW YORK — Universal Music unveiled a previously unheard and unreleased song by the late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury.

The record label announced the track, “Time Waits for No One,” on Thursday. It was originally recorded in 1986 for the concept album of the musical “Time” with musician Dave Clark.

A video to accompany the song was also released and includes unseen performance footage of Mercury. It was recorded in April 1986 at London’s Dominion Theatre.

Mercury died of AIDS-related pneumonia in 1991 at 45. He was the subject of the uber-successful film “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which won actor Rami Malek an Academy Award.

The film also won Oscars for best sound editing, best sound mixing and best film editing.

Foreign Woman Arrested in Athens, Charged With Peddling Child Porn

ATHENS – A woman said to be a foreign national, but who was not named, was arrested in Greece’s capital by cybercrime officers and charged with forcing three underage girls to play in pornographic films she produced and sold over the Internet.

That came as part of an international operation targeting child pornography on the dark web – Internet content that requires specific software, configurations or authorization to access that specializes in a pedophile audience,

She was linked to 47 images and 11 videos in which an unidentified woman and three girls, who have been identified, participated, said Kathimerini, as police seized six computer hard drives, two cameras and a tablet in a raid on her home.

Officers also found a stiletto knife and a firearm, as well as small quantities of cannabis, after searching the home of a male friend of the woman. The friend was arrested on drug and firearm charges, the report said.

In April, officers of the Greek Police’s cyber crime squad arrested four Greek men as part of an operation code-named Uncover aimed at cracking down on child pornography, the apprehensions coming after months of investigation and raids on four properties in Athens and one in the Peloponnese.

In that operations, officers confiscated several hard drives and seven laptops containing thousands of photographs depicting sexual exploitation of children.

Almost One Year After Deadly Fires, Greece Plans Unlawful Building Stop

ATHENS – With the one-year mark approaching of the July 23, 2018 wildfires that killed 103 people in areas north of Greece’s capital, nearly wiping out the seaside village of Mati, the Environment Ministry said it finally has a plan to prevent unlawful buildings that block access to the sea and escape routes from conflagrations.

The death toll, which a TV documentary said the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA government tried to hide and downplay after not having either a disaster plan or evacuation plan in place and a chaotic response to the fires as they roared, was blamed on the unlawful construction that cut off escape to the seas.

Visiting the devastated scene of Mati before taking off on a yacht vacation, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras promised to immediately have razed more than 1,100 unlawful buildings in the Attica prefecture, but didn’t.

Residents also protested he reneged on promises to help rebuild the village over which the fire roared so fast that some said the sky was on fire too.

Some 300 houses destroyed by the fires in Mati have received permits to rebuild and are slated to receive state funding for the purpose, Infrastructure Ministry General Secretary Maria Kleanthi told a meeting of local authority officials and residents.

For those beyond repair, some 120 are slated for demolition and another 120 are to be razed in the coming weeks, Kleanthi said, with the remaining unstable buildings first stripped of toxic asbestos before being razed.

The Environment Ministry’s plan focuses on some 7,900 hectares (19,521 acres) of land covering Mati and Rafina – two of the areas that were the worst hit by last July’s fires, said Kathimerini.

The plan would set restrictions on unlawful buildings that successive governments have allowed, and then issued small fines, so as not to antagonize voters and without moving to demolish unlawful tavernas and beach clubs blocking access to public beaches, with people charged to use them.

There would also be a review of some local roads while seeking to protect adjacent forestland and improve residents’ access to coastal areas by removing some unnecessary walls and fencing, the report also said.

Debt-Crushed Greek Electric Utility Could Be Lights Out

ATHENS – Greece’s electric utility the Public Power Corporation is on the verge of collapse and needs 300 million euros ($339.21 million) to avoid clauses kicking in that would call in loans that are due.

With the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA having been lenient in letting people have big discounts and not getting their power turned off, PPC’s situation has worsened, especially after the company and Energy Minister Giorgos Stathakis ignored recommendations from the McKinsey consulting company to streamline operations, said Kathimerini.

At a recent meeting Chief Financial Officer Alexandra Konida informed PPC’s management about the negative financial results in the year’s first quarter, doubting whether obligations could be met to suppliers, contractors and market entities after  August, the paper said.

Konida reportedly said unless the company’s finances improve that it would need at least 600 million euros ($678.42 million) in the second quarter to keep going, with no word on what would happen otherwise.

PPC in 2018 lost 903.8 million euros ($1.021 billion) and the situation got worse in the first quarter that showed losses of 254 million euros ($287.2 million) and negative earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of 80 million euros ($90.46 million) the report added.

With July 7 snap elections little more than two weeks away, PPC’s management was said to be scrambling to find ways to improve the sinking revenue picture to stave off having to make immediate loan payments to banks and take care of suppliers, who otherwise could also force an immediate call on the notes.

Turkey Launches New Gas Drillship amid Tensions with Cyprus

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey is launching a second drillship that it says will drill for gas off neighboring Cyprus despite European Union warnings to refrain from such illegal actions that could incur sanctions against Ankara.

Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez was due aboard the Yavuz on Wednesday as part of a ceremony to launch the 230-meter (750-foot) vessel that Turkish officials say can drill to a maximum depth of 12,000 meters (40,000 feet).

Another Turkish drillship, the Fatih, is already drilling 40 miles off Cyprus’ west coast in what the Cypriot government condemned as a violation of international law and its sovereign rights.

EU leaders meeting in Brussels are mulling possible actions against Turkey, which insists it’s only defending its rights and those of breakaway Turkish Cypriots to the area’s energy reserves.

(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Sarri: Becoming Juventus Coach Is A ‘Crowning Achievement’ (Video)

TURIN, Italy — With his attack-minded 4-3-3 formation, new Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri foresees Cristiano Ronaldo setting more scoring records.

Sarri was presented Thursday after signing a three-year contract with the club that has won Serie A for the last eight seasons.

Sarri called the Juventus job the “crowning achievement of a long and difficult career.”

“I’ve taken a long road to get here, from Serie C2 to B, A, Premier League and now Juventus. It’s special to be here. It’s the best squad in Italy,” Sarri said. “I’m coming from Chelsea, which has an inferior history to that of Juventus. It’s another step forward for me.

“Coaching Ronaldo is also an escalation. I coached great players at Chelsea but with him it’s the best in the world. He already holds all of the records you can have in world football but I would like help him break some more records.”

� LIVE | Maurizio Sarri's first press conference as Juventus manager �

🔴 LIVE | Maurizio Sarri speaks for the first time as Bianconeri boss from Allianz Stadium.

Posted by Juventus on Thursday, June 20, 2019

The 34-year-old Ronaldo scored 21 goals in his first Serie A season at Juventus. His single-season record is 48 goals in the Spanish league for Real Madrid in 2014-15.

Sarri said that he left Chelsea after only one season because he “felt a need to return to Italy.”

He succeeds Massimiliano Allegri, who guided Juventus to five straight Italian titles but was unable to bring home the most desired trophy — the Champions League — despite two runner-up finishes in the top European competition.

Sarri reportedly has a massive bonus in his contract if he leads Juventus to the elusive European title.

“I’ve never seen a club so determined to hire a coach,” Sarri said. “That convinced me right away.”

Sarri struggled with criticism upon his arrival at Chelsea but then led the London club to the Europa League title.

“I’ve always had the fans skeptical at the start. I come from a different breed and it’s fair that there’s this skepticism,” Sarri said. “There’s only one way to get through that and that’s to win. We’ve got to go out there onto the pitch to enjoy ourselves and put on a show.”

Athens and Nicosia, Welcome to Geneva

The road to negotiations is often paved with a certain amount of optimism and sometimes pleasantly lined with welcoming trees and affording lovely vistas. The exits, however, are usually slippery and often treacherous, as slick and combustible…as oil and natural gas.

The Turkish Energy Minister, in his statement to the Anadolu news agency, claimed that Turkish drilling has begun and has already reached 3,000 meters in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone.

And while bad things – and worse – are happening, the Greek Prime Minister and his Minister of Defense reassure us that we have nothing to fear, while the President of Cyprus expresses…optimism.

But the only ones who have real reasons to be optimistic are the Turks, who are already beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.

What is it that the Turks really want?

What they are demanding is (ignoring international law) to exploit the energy wealth that is in the territorial waters of Cyprus, and of Greece – beginning with the latter’s easternmost island of Kastelorizo.

How do they seek to achieve these goals?

There are two ways: one course entails threats or an actual conflict with Greece and Cyprus with the hope – on their side – of emerging the winners.

The second way, and the most painless, is to achieve what they are demanding by peaceful means, which still includes threats of violence. And Turkish officials, from the President of the country to the Prime Minister of the pseudo-state on occupied Cyprus, are very clear: “Either we also exploit the natural gas, or nobody exploits it.”

“And if you want,” they are signaling, “test us.”

Furthermore, they state, “When we say peacefully, of course, we mean negotiations.”

In other words, they are “inviting us” to recognize their “just” claims at the official negotiating table.

Of course, our allies do not want to see two NATO countries collide, and the solution – for them – is simple: negotiate.

And so in Athens the U.S. Ambassador to Greece said:
“I spoke clearly to these issues last week in my public comments in Washington D.C., and the State Department spokesperson over the weekend reaffirmed the strong American view that now is a time for dialogue and not for further escalatory, provocative actions.”
The problem is that now is not the time for Greece to negotiate. It is actually the worst time to sit down and face such serious national problems that have prevailed for decades. Greece’s negotiating position is very weak after almost ten years of profound economic crisis. Greece’s relative strength is not what it was before the crisis, or it what it will be a few years after the crisis passes.

While the State Department’s call for negotiations is understandable from the point of view of the U.S. and the EU, it is not good for Greece and Cyprus – nor is it good, if they think things through, for the oft-proclaimed interests of the U.S. and the EU in the stability of the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean, to encourage Ankara in any way.

So, it cannot be in any way unclear that the road to Geneva (i.e., to negotiations), is particularly slippery for Greek interests.

Piraeus Bank: Successful Completion of the Book Building Process for the Issue of €400 Million Dated Subordinated Notes

ATHENS – Piraeus Bank announces that it has successfully completed the book building process for the issuance of 10NC5 dated subordinated notes amounting to €400 million, through its wholly owned UK subsidiary, Piraeus Group Finance Plc and under the €25,000,000,000 Euro Medium Term Note Programme. The notes are placed in the international debt capital markets and will increase Piraeus Bank’s total capital ratio by ca. 90 basis points.

Demand for the transaction stood at approximately €850 million, with 135 investors placing orders as part of the book building process, which was run by Goldman Sachs International and UBS Investment Bank. Orders from more than 20 jurisdictions were received.

The coupon of the issue has been set at 9.75% and settlement is scheduled for June 26 th 2019.

Piraeus Bank’s Chief Executive Officer Christos Megalou commented: “We are very pleased with the results of our Tier 2 issuance and the overall market reception. This is the first public Tier 2 issuance by a Greek bank since 2008. The high level of investor demand is a clear vote of confidence from the market in the overall progress we have made at Piraeus Bank. The issuance fortifies further our balance sheet and acts as a key enabler for the implementation of our “Agenda 2023” strategic plan, which will benefit our investors, customers and employees.”

About Piraeus Bank

Piraeus Bank, founded in 1916, is the leading lender in Greece with a 29% loan market share, offering a full range of financial products and services to more than 5mn customers. Total assets of the Group amounted to €59bn, net loans to €38bn and customer deposits to €44bn on 31 March 2019. Piraeus Bank employees 12 thousand people in Greece and operates a nationwide network of 548 units, ranking first in customer satisfaction in the Greek market. In parallel, the Bank is at the forefront of digitalization and innovation in Greece, catering for the needs of more than 1.4mn customers in e-banking services. For more information on Piraeus Bank: http://www.piraeusbankgroup.com/en/

Greek Prosecutor Again Rejects Koufodinas’ Furlough Demand

With the rejection of a furlough demand by jailed terrorist assassin Dimitris Koufodinas struck down by Greece’s highest court, a prosecutor ordered to review the request a second time has turned it down again.

The prosecutor in the town of Volos, near the low-security farm to which Koufodinas was transferred, rejected the application for the multiple murderer to get a seventh vacation from jail.

Koufodinas in May went on a protracted hunger strike over the previous rejection, leading anarchist sympathizers to conduct violent attacks in Athens in support of him and the high court to direct a review of his furlough, causing him to break off his hunger strike.

The prosecutor justified the decision by pointing to the new felony charges of insurgency that have been brought against the former November terror group lead, said Kathimerini, tied to his protest in solidarity with a hunger-striking anarchist in February 2018.

The new provisions mean that Koufodinas, along with 20 more prison inmates implicated in the incident, essentially lose the right to furlough or early release due to the new charges.

The protest last year was carried out in Greek prisons to express support for Constantinos Giagtzoglou, detained on charges of membership of the Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire guerrilla group and over a letter bomb attack against former premier Lucas Papademos.

Giagtzoglou had started a hunger and thirst strike demanding his transfer from a jail in Larissa to Attica’s Korydallos Prison, where friends of his are inmates, Ironically, Koufodinas wanted out of Korydallos to get to a low-security farm.

A statement issued by Koufodinas and three jailed anarchists had expressed solidarity with Giagtzoglou, as had other inmates in separate statements.

Koufodinas is serving 11 life sentences for his role in November 17 killing 23 people, including five Americans attached to the US Embassy over the years, leading US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt to denounce him “as a murderer, not Robin Hood.”

Koufodinas was also seen as having sympathy from the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose party is riddled with terrorist and anarchist supporters for whom Koufodinas is an idol and darling.