Prominent Greek businessman jailed pending trial

ATHENS Fri Dec 14, 2012 2:03pm EST

ATHENS (Reuters) - Prominent Greek businessman Lavrentis Lavrentiadis will be jailed pending his trial for involvement in a banking scandal, a court source said on Friday.

Lavrentiadis, a high-flying businessman who began his career in the chemicals industry and then moved into banking and media, was arrested on Thursday at his home in Athens but taken to hospital later that day.

He is among the most high-profile Greek businessmen to be charged since Greece sank into a debt crisis, and his arrest comes amid growing public anger at a political and business elite blamed for dragging the country close to financial ruin.

The 40-year-old remained in hospital on Friday, where he faced a magistrate who decided he should be held until his trial, the source said. He is expected to be taken to prison or a prison hospital in the coming days, the source said.

A Greek prosecutor filed felony charges against him earlier this year in relation to the collapse of Proton Bank, a small Greek financial institution in which he was the biggest shareholder.

Proton became the first Greek bank to be effectively nationalized after it fell under a bank rescue fund set up by Greece and its international lenders.

Lavrentiadis has denied any wrongdoing. In a statement, he said the decision to jail him did not take into account his health issues and that the charges against him were built on a biased and wrong report from Greece's central bank.

"My health problems were ignored," he said. "The justice system is responsible now for anything that might happen to me."

If convicted, he could face life in prison. Another 27 suspected associates, including Proton executives, also face trial.

On Tuesday, a court ordered the confiscation of Lavrentiadis's property and assets, a court official said.

The charges against Lavrentiadis are related to accusations that Proton issued more than 600 million euros of bad loans to companies he owned or had connections with, as reported by Greece's central bank in an audit last year.

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Writing by Deepa Babington; Editing by Alison Williams)

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