ATHENS – A Greek businessman charged with embezzling hundreds of millions of euros from Proton Bank, which had to be rescued by the state, has been accused by a prosecutor of defrauding the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) of 115 million euros ($134.52 million).
Lavrentis Lavrentiadis has been free on 500,000 euros ($584,870) bail since finishing an 19-month detention period in 2014 without being brought to trial. It can take a decade or longer for trials to be held in Greece.
An investigation showed he may have been behind the theft of as much as 700 million euros ($818.82 million) from the bank, which helped bring it down.
Lavrentiadis, along with another 11 suspects, was charged in connection with a lawsuit filed in December 2017 by DEPA, which claimed that the company Hellenic Fertilizers (ELFE,) also owned by Lavrentiadis, paid its bills for DEPA gas with postdated checks that were bogus, said Kathimerini.
Lavrentiadis is also charged with forming a criminal organization with the intention of swindling the state.
An audit by the Bank of Greece, which regulates the industry, found that more than 40 percent of Proton’s commercial loans in 2010 were made to companies related to Lavrentiadis. The report says this was part of a misuse of the basic principles of lending and assurance.
A separate investigation, signed by a senior prosecutor who heads the country’s money laundering authority, found that Lavrentiadis – once hailed as the rising star of Greek business and known as a leading patron of the arts – had formed a criminal team to drain the bank.
It alleged loans made to dormant companies had been wired from Proton to another bank, Piraeus Bank, and then withdrawn by an employee in bags of cash.
In every case the leading figure was Lavrentiadis, said the confidential report by Greece’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), seen by Reuters in 2012. The bank’s management developed continuous, intense and to a great extent criminal activity which led to the deception of depositors, it said.