An incredible case of fraud and money laundering has been revealed after 20 months of police investigation. A Greek Non Governmental Organization (NGO) established with the purpose of carrying out de-mining projects in several countries has received a total of 9 million euro in public money and used the money in ways violating the NGO-funding laws.
According to Greek police, in the period between 2000 and 2004, the NGO has received some nine million euro from the International Development Cooperation Agency (Hellenic Aid) of the Greek Foreign Ministry. but with several tricks the money allegedly landed for the personal benefits of the people involved.
Involved in the case are the chairman and mastermind of the NGO – a journalist -, his wife -a former civil servant -, three retired and three active civil servants of the Greek Foreign Ministry.
Depending on their involvement in the case, the suspects will face felony charges for fraud against the Greek Government , for money laundering, , false attestation, breach violation, corruption etc.
The NGO was to carry out eight demining programs in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Lebanon and Iraq.
According to police investigation, the funding of the project was violating the NGO-funding laws, no approval was asked by the Greek embassies in the countries where the demining was to take place, no progress reports were issued, just to name a few of the law violations.
Among others, the police investigation has found that foreign workers at the de-mining projects were ‘donating’ money to the NGO, so that the company would demonstrate covering the project budget by its own means.
Furthermore, NGO assets were used for private purposes, among others for silly simple things like super market shopping, payment of restaurant and parking bills, a luxury car for private use and other things.
According to Greek media, the chairman and his wife were allegedly living a luxury life renting an apartment for 5,000 euro per month, had built a villa on the island of Rhodes and a 7-story building in Ampelokipoi district of Athens. The couple had moved to Cyprus last year.
“Many Greek non-governmental organizations have long been suspected that they were established only with the purpose to milk the Greek state. Questionable NGOs such as one for “the promotion of the processing of tomatoes in the Ivory Coast” or for “The promotion of Orthodoxy in North Korea” have been established as of 1997 onwards. Since the end of 2011 more than 80 NGOs are being investigated.” (GriechenlandZeitung)
It looks as if demining projects have been very profitable for the Greek NGOs that turned into a plague
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Scheme unveiled by British embassy in Athens as part of efforts to stem flow of immigrants to UK
Greece has also built a security fence along its land border with Turkey in an effort to stem the flow of migrants into Europe. Photograph: Nikos Arvanitidis/Corbis
The British government has launched a £2m project in Greece to assist the repatriation of migrants to countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, as it emerged that 18,500 had voluntarily left since the onset of the Greek debt crisis.
The British embassy unveiled the programme in Athens on Wednesday as part of an effort to stem the flow of immigrants to the UK.
"Our assessment is that the UK remains a primary final destination country for many of the irregular migrants in Greece," said the British ambassador, John Kittmer.
"British funding for this programme is ultimately about reducing illegal migration to the UK. That is why we are co-operating with the Greek government as it faces the continuing challenge of illegal migration."
With one of the longest coastlines in Europe and some of its most porous borders, Greece has long been seen as the easiest backdoor entrance to the EU. Migrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, the vast majority smuggled from neighbouring Turkey, view it as a stepping stone to a better life. In recent years refugees fleeing Syria's civil war have swelled the numbers arriving.
The influx has increased pressure on Greece's cash-strapped government to step up patrols along Europe's eastern border. Under the watchful eye of the EU, and that of the country's neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, the administration of prime minister Antonis Samaras has cracked down on illegal migrants, often employing controversial measures to round them up and clear them off the streets.
The construction of a six-mile barbed wire security fence along the Greek-Turkish land border has also dramatically reduced the flow, but smugglers are increasingly ferrying their human cargo to Greece's outlying eastern isles in the Aegean Sea.
Home Office officials said Turkey's liberal visa regime and the expansion in Asia and Africa of Turkish Airlines, the country's national carrier, had helped facilitate the influx.
Many of the 1,500 migrants the programme seeks to assist would otherwise end up in the UK, they said.
With human rights groups reporting an alarming rise in the number of deaths in the Aegean, and the Greek coastguard accused of forcing boats back out to sea, officials say it is also imperative that migrants are made aware of such perils before they set out.
"We are also thinking of establishing offices in countries like Pakistan to convince [would-be migrants] that when they make such journeys they will be at the mercy of God, that traffickers who bring them to Europe do not have their best interests at heart," said Greece's public order minister, Nikos Dendias, who was also present at the project's launch.
Implemented by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the programme will see immigrants being repatriated to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Bangladesh, Morocco, Egypt, India, Nigeria and Sudan over the next two years. Unaccompanied minors, mostly from Afghanistan, single-parent families and migrants with medical needs will be among the returnees. The project will also assist the voluntary return of around 30 victims of human trafficking, mostly EU citizens from eastern and central Europe.
With Greece experiencing its worst recession since the second world war, more migrants have voluntarily elected to leave the country than at any other time and any other nation in the EU. "Around 18,500 returns were made through different programmes over the last three years," said Laura Thompson, the IOM's deputy director general. "Partly because of the crisis and lack of job opportunities, but also because migrants have realised that with all the extra measures … there is no possibility of them getting to another European country."
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Monday, February 17, 2014
Is the Greek economy's five-year downward spiral finally coming to an end?
Recent financial developments, particularly with regards to the accumulative 25% reduction of the GDP over the past five years and the change in financial market indexes, suggest that the recession may be coming to an end. These sentiments are not unwarranted, as IOVE’s economic sentiment indicator among others, create the expectations of a recovery.
Based on the latest available data, for the first time in many months the permits for construction of buildings, care sales and retail sales appear to be positive. Meanwhile, in 2013 a remarkable increase of arrivals and tourist revenue, even during the October-December low season, resulted in 20% increase. Overall, the revenue from foreign tourists increased by 14.9%, with this trend expected to carry on into 2014.
The bane of unemployment
Even though the rate of unemployment still remains at an unprecedented high rate, employment in the private sector during 2013 (and January 2014) increased for the first time in recent years. This crates the expectations that the rate of unemployment will begin to decrease after it peaks in the next few months. IKA also had increased revenue for the first time since the onset of the crisis.
The latest figures on consumer trust suggest that the retail market will begin to recover in early 2014, with many businesses claiming that the collapse of the market has come to an end. The managing director of the Attica Department Stores Konstantinos Lampropoulos explained that “the great fall has stopped” and that he expects the market to grown “should there not be any major political upset”.
There have been significant developments in the fuel market, which had seen a 40% drop in demand since 2009. The managing director of Revoil Giorgos Roussos noted that “although 2013 started with a 10% drop in demand, the market drop in the last semester is estimated to be at about 5% to 6%”. Roussos revelled that in 2013 diesel sales increased by 5% to 7%, while demand for heating oil increased by 40%, compared to a 70% reduction the year before.
Although the drop in many sectors appears to have come to a stop, such as in construction or car sales, it should be noted that the financial recovery will not be linear and as such, further dramatic changes are expected, before the economy comes to a balance. This has not stopped the coalition government and the Bank of Greece expressing their optimism of achieving a marginal positive growth rate in 2014. Only the OECD predicts a negative growth rate.
The governor of the Bank of Greece Giorgos Provopoulos recently stated that the Greek economy will begin to recover in 2014 and based his prediction on the changes in competition, as well as the positive changes brought on by the structural reforms in the job and product markets. Mr. Provopoulos maintains that the recovery of trust will support consumption and investments.
The central banker warned however that the political uncertainty and dangers associated with it may increase in light of the upcoming elections in May and subvert the growth prospects. This is stressed by the vast majority of analysts, who also point out the effects of limited cash flow and continuing negative credit growth.
The foreign investments in recent years have created expectations of further funding from abroad to help the recovery of the Greek economy. Amongst these investments are tobacco company Philip Morris’ logistics investments in Agrinio, the establishment of a Huawei logistics centre in Piraeus, as well as Cosco’s interest in expanding its operations in Greece.
So far Coca Cola, Del Haize, Heineken, Microsoft and Nokia have all agreed to increase their presence in the Greek market by expanding and further developing their domestic operation. Other companies, such as Nestle, IBM and Vodafone, are also rumoured to consider investing in Greece.
Finally, the joint venture for the Trans Adriatic Pipeline that will bring Azerbaijani natural gas to Central Europe is expected to have a significant impact on the Greek economy by creating about 12,000 jobs that could generate over 400 million Euros annual.
- Originally published in the Sunday print edition