NEW YORK – Checks in small amounts to unknown recipients, expenditures without the necessary explanations and without deposited invoices, cash transactions and some controlled cash flow assistance, among other items, are included in the findings of the financial audit of the Independent Financial Commission that examined the finances of the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, the details of which were communicated to The National Herald.
These are some of the particulars that resulted from the implementation of the decision announced by the Chairman of the Board of Directors on September 19, George Georgopoulos, during the – separate – General Assembly that was convened. The contents will be saved on an external USB storage device that would be made available to the Greek-American community’s media outlets.
Accompanied by a message to the members of two administrative centers, the summary of the findings, which is contained in a separate document, reveals that the Independent Audit Committee claims to have checked “97% of the bank statements in 10 different accounts of the Federation,” entering the relevant information into Excel spreadsheets so that conclusions could be drawn.
As it turns out, a key feature of these transactions – a large percentage of which were traced with the assistance of witnesses – amounts to the bypassing of formal – but necessary – procedures, rather than possible ‘dark’ destinations for the funds. They do reach known destinations, but in some cases without following Federation rules.
As an illustrative example, a check for the payment of $19,000 to a well-known hotel lacks an itemized invoice, while the same applies to a second hotel, where payment was also made without further documentation. “The treasurer, Mr. Paliouras, testified that when he dared to ask the same question, the answer he received was ‘it is none of your business’, in a stern tone,” the report noted.
In addition, there are questions about a series of unknown checks and bank wire transfers, but also about certain donations in Greece, for which the relevant decisions were made without the details ever reaching the Commission.
Among these expenditures are some donations to the island of Chios such as $1,683 for the repair of a patrol car, $600 to the Chios Nursing Home and a donation to Kalamoti Chios in 2017, while there is also talk of contracts being awarded without the bidding process. It should be noted that the late former president of the Federation, Petros Galatoulas, hailed from Chios.
Savvidis – Boumbouras Cash
One of the main points of friction with Galatoulas was the collection of cash donations from certain Greek Parade grand marshals, Ivan Savvidis (2017) and Pantelis Boumbouras (2018). There are questions regarding the exact amounts as well as the path taken by the donations, including unorthodox procedures with respect to the existing rules.
Regarding that matter, there are two different records which provide explanations for these funds, based on reports from both Galatoulas and the then-treasurer, Athanasios Aronis, which do not differ from what they said in their interview with media representatives on September 21, 2021, which was the last for the long-time strongman of the Federation, who passed away last May.
“Along with Thanasis Aronis, I, as president, and Mr. Aronis as treasurer received $70,000 [from Ivan Savvidis]. Of this, $20,000 was given as follows: $16,000 for Evzone travel expenses, $3,000 to Philip Christopher for tipping waiters and the musicians at the Hilton, $1,000 for [the Federation’s] secretary and other small expenses. The remaining $50,000 was deposited by the Treasurer in the bank in the following amounts in stages: 3/30 – $9,900, 4/11 – $9,500, 4/12 – $9,900, 4/13 – $8,700, 4/18 – $12,000,” the document points out.
Regarding the donation of Pantelis Boumbouras, it is stated that before the parade the expatriate businessman had given the amount of $20,000 out of the $50,000 he had originally promised – which were used in exactly the same way as the first $20,000 from Ivan Savvidis. The receipt of the promised funds continued under the presidency of Cleanthis Meimaroglou, according to the same representations.
In this context, Galatoulas’ report claims that $3,000 was given to Meimaroglou on June 5 and that the late former president traveled to Athens to receive another $12,700 from Boumbouras, which was also “delivered to Mr. Meimaroglou” through Aronis.
Finally, Galatoulas noted that he received another $14,300 from Boumbouras, which he spent on the needs of the 2019 parade (Evzones travel expenses, tips at the Hilton, secretaries and other expenses).
In conclusion, the Independent Audit Committee warns the Federation that, “if you continue like this, without rules, without safety valves, without internal control, and without accountability, it is a mathematical certainty that five years from now we will be back at the same point.”
Finally, it is noted that although after 2015 the Federation’s revenue rose to “$3.2 million before taxes,” it nevertheless “has exactly the same amount in its coffers as at the beginning of 2015.”