By Lefteris Yallouros – Athens
Arrest warrants for more than twenty people were issued Wednesday night relating to loans granted by the Hellenic Postbank between 2006 and 2011.
Postbank employees, businessmen (including shipowners) based in Greece and Cyprus, former CEOs and the owner of a large Greek media group were being reportedly sought out by police in connection with the suspect loans.
Money laundering and fraud at the expense of public finances are amongst the charges they will face. The probe follows a report by the Bank of Greece citing a plethora of bad loans which have been branded non-performing for a very long time.
The Greek Anti-Money Laundering Office has already gone ahead with the freezing of assets of those being probed in order for the State to be able to reclaim at least a part of the suspect loans.
The Hellenic Financial Stability Fund pumped EUR 4.5 billion in the Hellenic Postbank having wound down and re-launched the bank, before selling it to Eurobank last summer. The Hellenic Financial Stability Fund was effectively selling Postbank to itself as it owns not only 100% of Postbank but also 93.6% of Eurobank.
The Postbank has assets of 13.7 billion euros, deposits of 10.7 billion and a network of about 200 branches.
The probe into suspect loans issued by previous management of the Postbank is a move that breaks with bad practices of the country’s banking sector which saw several banks collapse and later bailed out by public money.
Greece’s lenders have invested more than 40 billion euros to shore up the Greek banking system and have reportedly pressed Athens to clean up the corruption which is seen as the root of the country’s economic troubles.
The most costly example is that of Proton Bank which was bailed out by the Greek government, at a cost of 1.3 billion euros. Proton was split into “good” and “bad” parts and is now fully owned by Greece’s bank rescue fund, the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund. Proton was taken over when it became insolvent after it was found to have more than €700 million and a scandal involving its chief shareholder, Lavrentis Lavrentiadis.