Greek cigarette manufacturer SEKAP, which has teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, was still alive after a local court in Komotini issued an injunction against imposing a 45-million euro ($55.57 million) fine for tobacco smuggling.
The company is owned by Greek-Russian businessman Ivan Savvides, who has boasted of close ties with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose government he said would help him and wanted the fines halted.
SEKAP must still await a First Instance Court verdict on whether the fine would be wiped off the books. The court ruling indicated that the company would have to shut down if fined, effectively writing off the penalty because the business was too big to fail the local economy and shouldn’t be penalized despite the seriousness of the crime, the business newspaper Naftemporiki reported.
The fine was ordered before Savvides took over the company and when the business was owned and managed by an Agriculture Bank-controlled operative in 2009. The bank later failed, buried by debts and bad loans. Savvides made his fortune in Russia in cigarette manufacturing and sales after the fall of the Soviet Union.
In December, 2017, SEKAP nearly closed because he said it couldn’t pay the fine. Savvidis has played a prominent role in Greek media and sports businesses and been close to Tsipras and the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led government.
SEKAP is a subsidiary of Savvidis’ Donskoy Tabak company and he is 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 in 2017 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”.
After failing to get one of four private TV licenses issued by the government before a court ruled the sales invalid, he 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.