ATHENS – A prosecutor has directed a probe into whether an associate of Digital Policy Minister Nikos Pappas – who is a close advisor to Prime Minister and ruling Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras – tried to get the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) t o write off 120 million euros ($136.13) in utility debts owed by a businessman facing trial on charges of bank embezzlement.
The allegations surround Lavrentis Lavrentiadis, who owns Hellenic Fertilizers (ELFE) and was released from jail 4 ½ years ago on grounds he didn’t feel well and as he was facing a trial that still hasn’t begun and as he is running his company.
Lavrentiadis, formerly the major shareholder at Proton Bank, was also ordered to pay 500,000 euros ($567,190) in bail although prosecutors said he stole at least 511 million euros ($579.67 million) in various loan schemes to enrich himself.
Lavrentiadis was charged for embezzlement over the failed Proton Bank in which he had an interest and now stands accused of complicity in bank fraud over the company’s unpaid debts to Alpha Bank.
Media reports said that a former DEPA CEO facing charges in the ELFE case alleged that Manolis Petsitis, the associate of Pappas, appeared at DEPA’s offices in 2015 “claiming to represent the prime minister’s office” and asking for the gas company to come to some kind of an arrangement for writing off ELFE’s debt.
The former DEPA executive, who has been accused of accepting bribes, said Petsitis had been working for ELFE at the same time and was receiving a “very satisfactory salary.”
DEPA, which claims that ELFE paid its gas bills with bad checks for years without explaining why that was allowed, how it happened, or why there were no prosecutions, sued Lavrentiadis and 11 associates for fraud and racketeering but he hasn’t been returned to jail.