ATHENS, April 21 (Reuters) - A Greek prosecutor has filed felony charges against the former chairman of Piraeus Bank , Michalis Sallas, and six other executives over property transactions involving real estate firms linked to Sallas, court officials said.
The charges were based on an October 2016 report by a deputy financial crimes prosecutor, which examined six real estate transactions conducted by the bank in 2006.
The report, which has been seen by Reuters, alleges that companies affiliated to Sallas and members of his family acquired properties with loans taken from the bank, which were then sold at a lower price to intermediaries, and then sold on to Pireaus at a considerable premium in five of the six cases.
Sallas and the other bank executives face charges of repeated breaches of faith against the bank that amount to felony, court officials said on Wednesday. Sallas’ family members have never been accused or charged.
In a statement on Wednesday, Sallas, who stepped down last July after 25 years at the helm of the bank, denied the charges.
Sallas said he had not been formally notified about the charges. He said the property transactions were “transparent” and “legal” and the Bank of Greece, the country’s central bank, had issued a report confirming that the purchases of the properties had not damaged Piraeus.
Referring to the charges, he said: “I see this as an effort to target me, which I am certain will not bear fruit as there has been no damage to the bank.”
The other bank executives charged are former vice chairman Theodoros Pantalakis; general managers Constantinos Georgiou and Ioannis Sgourovassilakis; head of financial services Constantinos Liapis; and employees Leia-Elissavet Baloglou and Christos Boules.
Pantalakis declined to comment on the filing of charges when contacted by Reuters. The other executives and employees did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment. A Piraeus Bank spokesman declined to comment.
The 2016 financial crimes prosecutor’s report stated “those implicated” in the property transactions denied they had in any way impaired the bank. It did not identify the individuals in question.
The report went on to cite general managers Georgiou and Sgourovassilakis as saying that any transactions between the primary sellers of real estate and intermediaries were done without the bank’s knowledge. Both executives say the bank followed normal practice, denying the transactions in any way impaired the bank.
Following the charges, an investigating magistrate is expected be appointed to look further into the case and to question the accused, in line with standard Greek practice. Those charged would normally respond formally at this point.
The case is in keeping with allegations made by a by a former Piraeus employee and in a 2012 Reuters report headlined “A Greek banker’s secret property deals.”
Reuters reported that Piraeus had rented seven properties that were owned by a series of private investment companies, directed among others by Sallas’s wife and two children. Their acquisition by family members was financed by Piraeus bank loans, Reuters reported.
Family members contacted by Reuters in 2012 declined to comment. Representatives contacted after the filing of charges on Wednesday did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment on the case.
In 2012, Piraeus Bank sued Reuters over its report, seeking damages of 50 million euros. Piraeus said that the bank had never acquired or leased property from its chairman or family.
The lawsuit was ruled inadmissible by a Greek court on technical grounds a year later. (Reporting by Constantinos Georgizas; Additional reporting by Athens Newsroom; Editing by Toby Chopra)