In BBC Paul Mason’s report published a few days ago, the notorious Golden Dawn MP Ilias Panagiotaros declares ‘We are at war with domestic and international bankers’ (3:08 Mason’s report http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-19976841) Sure, Panagiotaros likes to imagine himself as a righteous warrior, but truth falls closer to the fact that he is a mercenary, and after looking between the lines one can understand that he could, god and leader willing, become a bankers willing executioner.
In one of the speediest consolidations in the Greek banking sector, the fourth largest bank, Piraeus Bank, completed as of July 30, the 95m euro takeover of the healthy part of the state-owned Agricultural Bank of Greece (ATE Bank). Only the real estate property of ATE Bank has been estimated to surpass one billion euro in value.
The deal, announced by the central bank on July 27, paved the way for a spate of mergers and takeovers, part of a demand by the troika of lenders to restructure the banking sector.
The deal was performed under obscure circumstances and met harsh opposition in public sphere as well as in the parliament. Minister of Finance Giannis Stournaras and Head of Central Bank of Greece Giorgos Provopoulos had played a controversial role into compromising the public bank’s viability. In order to achieve this they have exempted the bank from recapitalization due to its public character while they committed tens of million of recapitalization euros to private banks.
Analysis of the merger deal contradicts the statements of both Stournara and Provopoulos that this choice has been the bet in the interest of Greek state. Actual costs and losses from this privatization are double to the cost of recapitalizing the bank.
The days after the merger opposition parties have asked the two of them to appear before the ‘Constant Financial Affairs Parliamentary Committee’ to explain the merger which they initially resisted with the support of the Golden Dawn party.
While 19 out of the 52 members of the committee (that consists of MP of all parties represented in parliament) are necessary in order to oblige one to appear in front of the committee, only 17 had signed. The three MPs of Golden Dawn in the committee (Ilias Panagiotaros is one of them) that could make a difference with their signatures were directed not to sign, and they never signed the petition. Provopoulos and Stournaras, given that they climate was very negative for them and two more MP from other parties would eventually occur, have voluntary showed up in front of the committee.
Stournaras and Provopoulos finally appear in front of the committee the 6th of August and during the questioning Ilias Panagiotaros, takes the microphone for “three” questions to the Minister Stournaras and the Director Provopoulos.
“Three”, so his says and asks one about the loans of political parties facilitated by ATEBank, one about the point of his neo-nazi party for invalidation of all peasants debts to the bank and one on the future of employees of ATEBank. All questions are too broad and generally put forward before him by journalists and other MPs.
But then before dropping the mic he quizzes in a fourth one. “Has a member of the administrative board of ATEBank removed from his personal account and abroad 8 million euro?” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sl8kc56xgDc)
Why this is relevant to the merger as such nobody can say for sure. Furthermore how Panagiotaros has knowledge of this detail and even better who licked the information to him is an additional intriguing question as well as why he uses it in a way that will obscure the investigation over the merger of ATEBank?
The astonishment multiplies right after when the Director of Bank of Greece Giorgos Provopoulos answers “YES, We have had information about a major member of the bank that moved abroad not 8 but 10 millions. We have investigated this information but for legal reasons I can not tell you the findings. But we have provided the relative info to the authorities”.
A specialized journalist on banking that was present during the proceedings says that the answer was obviously photographing the Director of ATEBank Theodorοs Pantalakis. “Of course it did picture him, the moment Provopoulos answered like he did, we topped following the discussion and start calling sources to confirm that”. Pantalakis was the director of the ATE Bank and he had openly challenged the privatization. Before the commission had finished the prosecutor had ordered an investigation on who this person is and whether he evaded taxes while he removed 8 millions abroad. (http://www.tovima.gr/finance/article/?aid=469856)
The Financial Times newspaper has covered extensively the incident that day and spoken to Pantalakis himself. At the end of the article it left open the possibility that Pantalakis transaction exposure that day was due to his resisting the merger.
This did not produce anything since Pantalakis soon after made public statements accepting he was the person referred to and that the money were taxed and legally removed abroad, which was true.
Nevertheless the job of the Golden Dawn MP and the banker was well done given that the debate on the merger defused thereafter and shifted into an examination of Mr Pantalakis finances and the moral responsibility of the banker who removed money abroad at difficult times forgetting details of the merger. Panagiotaros has serviced the banker well with his question but why the director of the Bank of Greece would give out the name so easily, if not?
Given the difficulty to learn names of personalities moving fortunes abroad in cases that have dominated public debate lately, Provopoulos eagerness to spell out Pantalakis case in a way that pictured him is debatable at least. You know now what it took in order to learn the ‘Lagarde List’ contents?
Can one observe any cross conflict interests between Provopoulos and Piraeus that would make him adopt a more favorable to the bank position than that of public interest? Only a severance payment of 3,4 million euro (Uncovered by Reuters investigative journalists http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/11/us-greece-bog-provopoulos-idUSBRE89A0OD20121011), that wiped off a bondage loan he owned to the same bank, arranged the day of his departure from Director of Piraeus Bank to become Director of the Central Bank of Greece.
And has Panagiotaros, a member of Golden Dawn and member of the Financial Affairs Committee, a link into this case that would guide him to make such a convenient question? Has Piraeus Bank anyhow a possible contact point with Golden Dawn. You will be surprised… Takis Michalolias, brother of the leader of the Golden Dawn Nikos Michaloliakos, has been the bank’s lawyer.
A source inside the ATE Bank has not confirmed this link though. He said that Michalolias has not in fact intervened in order to help set up the question of the MP to the Banker. But the question targeting Pantalakis was set up for sure and it is most likely that the link goes directly from the environment of the banker to the MP.