ATHENS – Greek tobacco company SEKAP, owned by a Russian-Greek investor with ties to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, may decide to close because of a 38.2-million euro ($45.41 million) fine for a number of legal violations.
That occurred in 2009, before it was taken over by Ivan Savvidis, who has gone on to a prominent role in Greek media and sports businesses. A meeting of the board was called for Dec. 29 to go over the decision from the Komotini Court of Appeals requiring the fine be paid after the government wanted it written off in what critics said was a favor to Savvidis.
The meeting will also review a recent decision by the customs authorities of Xanthi, stemming from the verdict on the fine, “that has rendered impossible the sale of products in the domestic market,” a SEKAP statement read without providing more details.
The, board members will be joined by top Greek experts in bankruptcy cases, Kathimerini said without naming them. A press release by SEKAP clearly stated that board members “… will commence preparations for the company’s bankruptcy”.
SEKAP is a subsidiary of Savvidis’ Donskoy Tabak company.
Savvidis, owner of a series of companies in northern Greece including Makedonia Palace Hotel in Thessaloniki, Souroti drinks industry and PAOK soccer club, as well as several media holdings, forms part of the consortium that recently acquired a controlling stake in Thessaloniki Port Authoirity (OLTH) via his Belterra Investments company.
He came to the forefront earlier this year when he said that, “I heard the speech (Prime Minister Alexis) Tsipras made on SEKAP I was ready to applaud him, he reminded me of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin”, and that New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis “will never become prime minister”.
That came after the Tsipras, also the Radical Left SYRIZA leader, tried to wipe out the fine for Savvidis’ company. The investor earlier this year, after failing to get one of four private TV licenses issued by the government before a court ruled the sales invalid, bought a 19.3 percent stake in Mega TV, which is controlled by listed firm Teletypos, for a reported 5 million euros, some $5.94 million.
Savvidis, the owner of PAOK soccer club, purchased the stake that belonged to the Pegasus media group owned by Fotis Bobolas.
The percentage was the collateral for bank loans taken out by Pegasus. Seventy-five percent of the 5 million paid by Savvidis will go toward paying off Mega’s bank debts while the remaining 25 percent will be used for back pay owed to staff.
The major opposition New Democracy said the deal was dubious at best and possibly unlawful, claiming it was just another attempt by Tsipras’ government to reward friends and try to control the media and dissent.