Greek Railway Chiefs Charged With Stealing Millions in Materials Thefts

A train sits at the central railway station during a 24-hour strike in Athens, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. Greece's largest labor unions called for a general strike over planned austerity cuts in 2018-19 as unemployment remains over 20 percent and poverty levels have surged over the past few years since the country first required an international financial rescue in 2010. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS – With Greece having one of the highest rates of corruption in the world, eight Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) employees, most of them high-ranking executives, have been charged with defrauding millions of euros from the state organization.

Officers from the Financial Police squad scooped up 19 people as part of their investigation into the racket said to have been stealing materials from OSE and selling them either as scrap or at cut-rate prices to pocket the profits.

In keeping with Greek practices even involving alleged multi-million dollar thefts or massive corruption, none of the suspects were identified despite their positions in the hierarchy of the organization as taxpayer-paid employees.

The newspaper Kathimerini said it was told there were than 30 members in the gang, many of them Gypsies including two owners of scrap metal management companies who are believed to been among the leaders in the scheme.

Raids on the homes of suspects turned up large sums of cash, believed to be proceeds from the illicit trade, the newspaper said, with more details expected to be given by Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Toskas, Transport Minister Christos Spirtzis and Financial Police chief Andreas Apostolopoulos.

Earlier this year, the European Commission’s  Directorate General for Competition asked Greece’s government to to explain the more than 12 billion euros ($14.15 billion) in state grants given to OSE in recent years and where the money went.

Italian railway company Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, buyer of Greek service operator Trainose, owned by OSE, is taking over the operator as part of a privatization drive.