ATHENS – The former head of the failed Proton Bank, out on bail for three years on charges of money laundering and embezzlement, has had his fine cut by the country’s highest court, the Council of State.
Lavrentis Lavrentiadis, yet to face trial after prosecutors said his crimes brought down the bank, will pay a fine of 495,000 euros ($583,680) instead of 645,000 euros ($760,550) that was originally ordered, Kathimerini reported.
Fines were also cut for four former associates also charged with failing to stop money laundering and other financial crimes. Taken into custody in 2012, Lavrentiadis was released in June, 2014 on bail of 500,000 euros ($589.57 million) although he’s charged with stealing 700 million euros ($825.4 million) by granting unsecured loans from the bank to companies and bank accounts in his name.
Despite that, he’s been walking around free three years after his release, although banned from leaving the country. He was let out of jail because he said he didn’t feel well, a common reason why alleged felons are let out of prison in Greece.
Lavrentiadis is facing charges over running a criminal organization, money laundering, fraud and breach of faith in connection with alleged embezzlement at Proton Bank. He had completed 19 months in pre-trial custody, a month longer than the maximum period defendants are supposed to be held, barring extraordinary circumstances.
The investigation showed he may have been behind the theft of as much as 700 million euros ($928.7 million) from the bank, which helped bring it down.
An audit by the Bank of Greece, which regulates the industry, found that more than 40 percent of Proton’s commercial loans in 2010 were made to companies related to Lavrentiadis. The report says this was part of a misuse of the basic principles of lending and assurance.
A separate investigation, signed by a senior prosecutor who heads the country’s money laundering authority, found that Lavrentiadis – once hailed as the rising star of Greek business and known as a leading patron of the arts – had formed a criminal team to drain the bank.
It alleged loans made to dormant companies had been wired from Proton to another bank, Piraeus Bank, and then withdrawn by an employee in bags of cash.
In every case the leading figure was Lavrentiadis, said the confidential report by Greece’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), seen by Reuters in 2012.
The bank’s management developed continuous, intense and to a great extent criminal activity which led to the deception of depositors, it said.