ATHENS – An accounting investigation of the bankrupt Folli Follie Greek jewelry and accessory maker Folli Folli found that supervisory authorities and the stock market allowed a scam, including embezzlement, to go on for years.
The company’s owners, the Koutsolioutsos family, conducted a fraud scheme from 2000-17, according to an audit from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said media reports, while agency officials looked the other way despite evidence of wrongdoing.
The audit, said Kathimerini, “also revealed the staggering and unprecedented negligence of supervisory authorities,” including not making a move after the scandal was busted open on May 3, 2018 by the American fund Quintessential Capital Management (QCM).
The Hellenic Capital Market Commission under then-Chairman Charalampos Gotsis, charged with protecting the stock market, nevertheless let the company keep selling shares for 21 days before suspending its trading butl let the family rule the business.
During the 16-month period until the start of the PwC investigation, data could have been destroyed, altered, falsified or concealed, the paper said, but not enough to prevent disclosure of alleged crimes, including stealing money from the company.
An email included in the report said the owners and Gotsis then discussed how to hide the breach and give instructions to give the impression the Capital Market Commission was doing its job to deflect criticism.
It got worse. The indication was that Gotsis was backing a bankrupt company accused of mismanagement and defrauding shareholders that had been exposed and that Folli Follie’s founder and President Dimitris Koutsolioutsos, and his son George still influenced favorable rulings from the commission for 18 months more.
The PwC report also suggested that ministers of the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA who were named in the report but not by Kathimerini, conspired to protect the Koutsolioutsos family although no motive was given for it.
The former ministers filed a criminal complaint against Folli Follie Security Director Nikolaos Sakkos over the email which insinuated political interference to protect the company from regulatory oversight, the paper added, the audit showing the management inflated its sales, profits and equity through virtual purchases and sales from/to both affiliated companies and completely nonexistent ones.
The report suggested the SYRIZA officials teamed to insulate the company’s owners from charges, allegedly with the support of then premier Alexis Tsipras and his government.
The email between Sakkos and George Koutsolioutsos includes a reference to Tsipras, stating that, “The instruction from above is to assist the (Folli Follie) Group. This is the position of Maximos Mansion [the PM’s office]. The prime minister was also informed.” There’s been no response from Tsipras.
The three ex-ministers, who denied wrongdoing, said their complaint to Supreme Court prosecutor Vasiliki Pliota targeted Sakkos and anyone else who may be found responsible for defamation and insult.
“We filed a lawsuit to allow truth to shine. To prove that there is an effort to slander us and hurt SYRIZA, an effort that in my estimation is being made … by the New Democracy government in cooperation with interests either dark or visible,” said Flambouraris.