A fraud attempt to extract almost 150,000 euro from Greek National Tourism Organization lead to the arrest of five people, including a former special adviser to ex-GNTO general secretary Nikos Karachalios. The fraud was disclosed when last Friday a woman tried to get a payment for a cheque bearing allegedly the forged signature of the ex general secretary. The cheque of 147,600 euro was apparently a payment for a hotel on the island of Syros and based on bogus invoices.
It looks as if the gang was particularly quick in acting as “special adviser Costas Vasilakos held the GNTO-position for just two months,” according to state broadcaster NET TV.
Police but also the GNTO and the Tourism Ministry are investigating whether there have been similar fraud and embezzlement cases in the past.
Nikos Karachalios, a communications expert from Nea Dimocratia, was assigned to the post of the GNTO-general secretary four months ago. Beginning of the month he was asked by Tourism Minister Olga Kefaloyianni to submit his resignation over a controversial flash-mob video and some other money spending actions that drew the criticism of the media.
Five caught for fraud at National Tourism Organization
Police have over the past few days arrested a 44-year-old businessman, two 29-year-old business partners, and a 44-year-old freelancer working with the company of the latter.
They have also arrested Costas Vasilakos, former special adviser to ex-GNTO general secretary Nikos Karahalios.
Vasilakos is accused of issuing a check of 147,600 euros from GNTO for the payment of services that were never provided. The services purportedly involved a hotel on the Aegean island of Syros.
Karahalios, who yesterday appeared at police headquarters in Athens, denied any involvement with the case. In comments made to local media, Karahalios claimed that his name had been dragged in the case in an attempt to damage his political credibility. He gave no further details.
All suspects face felony charges of embezzlement, fraud, forgery and setting up a criminal organization. They are scheduled to face a prosecutor on Friday. (ekathimerini)
The case stinks up to the sky and it shows that no matter how deep the country has sunk in debt, there are still cheaters, swindlers and hustler still try to get advantage of the lack of control mechanism and have their hands reach deep in the public money.
According to Proto Thema, special adviser Vasilakos was hired by Karachalios in order to clean up “GNTO from the rodents”. The two men had got to know each other at a social event not very long ago. Vasilakos was a former employee of a big multinational company in Denmark and had also worked for a church NGO.
Allegedly Vasilakos had submitted a report to Karachalios claiming that there was a ‘black hole’ of 12 million euro in the GNTO.
Nevertheless, it looks as if the Tourism Ministry leadership does not have the GNTO under control, has failed so far to establish transparency and has not managed to clear irregularities or get rid of project assignments that have the scents of scandal…
GNTO is the organisation to promote Greece abroad. But unfortunately some officials promote their own pockets.
PS To trace the causes of black holes, follow the money, the bogus invoices and the employees and former employees relations…
What a shame!