ATHENS – The President of Greece’s largest children’s hospital said 25,000 euros ($34,230) he was found with after his arrest on corruption charges was not a bribe, but a donation he intended to give to the facility, as he readied his defense for a court appearance next week.
Haris Tobouloglou, 54, who runs the Aglaia Kyriakou Athens General Children’s Hospital, was taken into custody on Christmas Eve Day in a sting operation on charges of blackmail and accepting bribes, as was an unnamed 40-year-old man authorities said acted as the go-between.
Authorities said he demanded the money from an advertising company before signing off on a 190,000 euro ($260,230) contract for a children’s obesity program and said it wouldn’t be approved unless he was paid off first.
Tobouloglou has denied all charges, claiming he was set up: “It is a frame-up. The money I took was for a gift to the hospital. The specific company was remiss in its obligations and that’s why it was afraid of losing the bid,” he told the press, the Athens News Agency reported.
According to the charges filed by the advertising agency’s President, Tobouloglou demanded a bribe from the company, which was contracting for a program related to the study and prevention of childhood obesity.
The contract was worth 190,000 euros. After several meetings this past week, the company handed over to the hospital president 25,000 euros in marked banknotes, which he in turn gave to his accomplice. Both were arrested immediately by police.
Toboulglou, who had been a long-time member of the ruling New Democracy Conservatives and had stood as a candidate for elections, was immediately expelled on his arrest..
Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis, who had called for the hospital director’s resignation, said that the government “will show zero tolerance towards corruption phenomena” and called for his punishment. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy leader, has been pushing a purge of the corrupt.
At a press conference, Georgiadis said Samaras had been advised of Tobouloglou’s activities months ago and praised the police over the operation to arrest him in a sting, where the hospital chief was found with the cash in his possession.
Georgiadis said that Tobouloglou, he said, had been appointed by the Aglaia Kyriakou Foundation, of which he is a permanent member and the government was required to by law to accept it. Georgiadis said he would meet with the board to get Tobouloglou fired while he’s being prosecuted.
“Tobouloglou’s arrest while in flagrant delicto proves that under the present government and the specific prime minister, there is no chance that anyone can believe they can get away with some ties to or privileged relations with a political party,” Georgiadis said, adding that the premier has ordered that “everyone face the consequences of the law.”