Greek Investigators Freeze Accounts of Former Jumbo Toy Store Executive

(Photo by Eurokinissi/Tatiana Bollari)

ATHENS – Bank accounts of former Jumbo toy store franchise executive Evangelos Papaevangelou were frozen by Greece’s anti-money laundering authority as it probes alleged unlawful payments by Chinese citizens to buy Golden Visas that allow free travel in the European Union.

The Greek owner of the Destiny property investment company is accused of having Chinese property buyers pay for purchases using Greek bank card terminals in China to avoid capital controls in that country although he claimed what he did was legal and that banks were responsible for the illegal transactions, deflecting blame.

Founded in 2015, Destiny has already sold 152 properties for 40 million euros ($45.33 million at an average value of 263,500 euros ($298,639), just above the requirement to purchase property of at least 250,000 euros ($283,339) to get the visa and a residency permit available to those who can afford one but not even Greeks of the Diaspora with family ties to the homeland.

The company also got down payments of 20 million euros ($22.67 million) for apartments under construction, said Kathimerini, while many apartments being purchased by Golden Visa buyers are being turned into short-term rentals through sites such as Airbnb, snapped up cheap during a long-running economic crisis but driving up rental prices for people even in poorer areas.

The move comes after a Supreme Court prosecutor ordered the Financial Prosecutor’s Office to open an investigation into alleged irregular Greek real estate transactions by Papaevangelou, who resigned from Jumbo after a news report claimed he had set up a real estate company which allegedly sold property to Chinese nationals through the use of Point-of-Service (POS) terminals in China, which has restrictions like Greece on taking money out of the country.

Jumbo denied it had any knowledge of Papaevangelou’s alleged irregular activities.