European Bailout Fund For Greek Money Laundering And Fraud

Wolf Richter's picture

Wolf Richter

The ink wasn’t even dry yet on the European bailout fund, the EFSF when it paid $1.3 billion to bail out Proton Bank in Greece. Turns out, Proton had siphoned off $1 billion in a scheme of fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, and offshore front companies, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung. And then a bomb exploded.

The bomb, fabricated of dynamite, demolished four cars in front of a building in Halandri, a suburb of Athens. Not a coincidence: in the building lived a senior employee of the Bank of Greece, whose meticulous investigation of Proton Bank had exposed the massive criminal scheme. According to the police, the bomb was intended as a warning to those who attempt to shed light on these kinds of machinations.

Founded in 2001 as an investment bank, Proton Bank expanded rapidly, was listed on the Athens stock exchange in 2005, and was then acquired by private equity funds. In 2006, Proton acquired Omega Bank. In 2008, Piraeus Bank acquired 31% of Proton. In late 2009, a guy named Lavrentis Lavrentiadis bought that 31% stake from Piraeus Bank. As Proton’s largest shareholder, he became its president. He also had interests in pharmaceuticals and the media and was the majority owner and president of Neochimiki, a manufacturer of detergents headquartered in Athens. By March 2011, he’d sold down his stake to 15% as the value of the stock collapsed. Chairman of the board was former US Ambassador Daniel Speckhard.

Ever the active under-40 entrepreneur, Lavrentiadis and some partners also founded a financial institution in Lichtenstein, Lamda Privatbank AG, which they capitalized with 25 million Swiss franks. He was its first client and majority owner, according to Schweizer Banken Info. Lamda, which began operating in November 2010, attempts to inspire confidence today on its sparse website: “We manage your portfolio with competence and a strong sense of responsibility as we know your lifetime achievements are behind your assets.”

Lavrentiadis is one of the main suspects of the Proton investigation.

On October 10, the Greek Finance Ministry, on advise from the Greek Central Bank, took over and recapitalized Proton Bank with €900 million ($1.3 billion) from the Financial Stabilization Fund, which is part of the EFSF. However, the Bank of Greece had been investigating Proton for some time and was compiling a report of several hundred pages that contained a plethora of details, tables, and lists of suspicious transactions with offshore front companies. While their names were evocative—Gold Valley, Blue Island, Bayland, or Beauty Works—their owners remained elusive. And its credit committee approved €357 million in high-risk loans to newly formed companies, such as Rovinvest or Cyprus Properties, and to offshore companies, though the bank had little or no information on them.

Exactly the kind of machinations and capital transfers that contributed to the current crisis in Greece. And the timing was symptomatic: while Proton’s euros left the country for greener pastures, Greece was already getting bailed out. And when Proton’s scheme collapsed, it too got bailed out.

Now the money is gone. The ministry of finance will split the bank into a New Proton Bank that will continue to do business with existing capital. The rest will be liquidated. The Greek government will try to go after the assets of Lavrentiadis and his six coconspirators, insofar as their assets are still in Greece.

Meanwhile, Lavrentiadis counterattacked, accusing the Greek government of violating the constitution by taking over his very favorite financial institution without first listening to him.

The whole affair raises the question why a Greek bank that engaged in criminal activity should get bailed out by international taxpayers, including those in the US (via the US contribution to the IMF). Particularly galling: the Greek government knew of the criminal activity before it asked for the bailout funds. Another line item on a long list of financial institutions whose reprehensible activities took the taxpayers to the cleaners.

And then, the US government forked over another $13.8 billion.... Bailing out Zombies, Again.

Wolf Richter

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
americanspirit's picture

Proton's private investors? Russian mobsters operating out of Cyprus. Bet on it.

dcb's picture

depends if investment bank or deposit bank. you want to back the depositors, bu screw the investors. that's why we need the old glass stegall.

PulauHantu29's picture

"Birthplace of Democracy."


MS7's picture

"Chairman of the board was former US Ambassador Daniel Speckhard."

It seems like a lot of powerful interests want this hushed up. Sadly, investigations in Greece never get anywhere. But now that at least some outside media is looking into this, maybe we'll find out something.

riley martini's picture

 Their murders are open and messy unlike the fake suicides in the US like the late CFO Kellerman murdered for his report on bonuses and bribes at Fannie or Freddie .  Gringrichs "consulting fees " were a part of that fraud the Democrats paid certain Republicans to look the other way while they robbed the shareholders and then the tax payer. The theft continues .

General Debility's picture

What is a good source on this story? I never heard about it.

11b40's picture

If you don't understand by now that the Fannie & Freddie cesspool was a favorite swimming spot for BOTH parties, you need to educate yourself.

They are all complicit, and shilling for one or the other is a fool's game.

alfa's picture

Brzezinski in Athens for the new 'Lavrentiadis Chair for SE Europe at CSIS

JR's picture

A major find, alfa, and that’s why I love the Internet! Thanks.

In his book released in 1970, Between Two Ages: America's Role in the Technetronic Era, the former professor at Columbia University in New York City praised Marxism for being “a victory of reason over belief,” and delighted in the prospect that America’s "obsolescence" would be overcome by “deliberate management of the American future.”  He called for a “community of nations” and longed for the creation of a centralized “world government.”  It was Brzezinski and David Rockefeller who presented the idea of a trilateral grouping at the annual 1972 Bilderberg meeting that would merge nations and mankind together in a centrally managed economic system under total control of the conspirators.

Said Brzezinski in his 1970 book (p. 309), “In the economic-technological field, some international cooperation has already been achieved, but further progress will require greater American sacrifices. More intensive efforts to shape a new world monetary structure will have to be undertaken, with some consequent risk to the present relatively favorable American position.” And so they tore America's prosperity out by the roots and offshored it as a leveling tool.

To Brzezinski, freedom is obsolete; he longs to put mankind back into a harness as a beast of burden.

alfa's picture

Brzezinski in Athens for the new 'Lavrentiadis Chair for SE Europe at CSIS
08 December, 2009


One of America's foreign policy and diplomacy doyens, Zbigniew Brzezinski, spoke at an event here on Monday to commemorate the establishment of a new SE European studies chair at the prestigious Washington-based Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS).

Brzezinski, the US national security advisor during the Carter administration and a current CSIS trustee, initially outlined the centre's scope and mission, while latter fielding press questions ranging from China's emergence on the global scene, to NATO engagement in Afghanistan to Europe's energy security and even the "name dispute" still separating Athens and Euro-Atlantic aspirant fYRoM, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The spry 81-year-old Polish-American academic opened his remarks by praising the initiative of Greek business executive Lavrentis Lavrentiadis to establish the new CSIS seat, which will be headed by veteran analyst Janusz Bugajski.
"The CSIS is a strategic think tank that aims to aid and guide US strategic goals ... that's why this generous and visionary insistence to focus on SE Europe, a sensitive region, is so important," Brzezinski said, in praise of the newly established chair.
Among others, Brzezinski said an emphasis on "energy security" for Europe was not inherently "anti-Russia"; he appeared reassuring of China's growing role, terming it as "less revisionist and quite accommodating" to the current international system, while at the same time calling for more and proportionate support by NATO member-states in the Afghanistan conflict.
Asked specifically about Greece's contribution, the prolific public diplomacy author said increased aid funding and specific initiatives, such as financing programmes to dissuade Afghan farmers from growing opium poppies, could somewhat substitute for additional military contingents.

Besides Brzezinski and Bugajski, former US assistant secretary of state and distinguished career diplomat Amb. Marc Grossman as well as former deputy assistant secretary of state Heather Conley spoke at the event, held at a seaside SE Athens resort, with Lavrentiadis. Grossman detailed the situation with NATO, particularly the Alliance's purpose in the 21st century, the Afghanistan mission, relations with Russia and the larger transatlantic partnership, while Conley focused on US-EU ties in the Obama era and the Lisbon treaty's ratification.

On his part, Bugajski, an expert in SE Europe issues, said he favoured the placing of a geographic qualifier as part of the constitutional name of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, calling the latter's Euro-Atlantic course imperative for quelling whatever inter-ethnic tension in the landlocked country and preventing any destabilisation of the western Balkans. He cited the possibility of the Albanian minority in fYRoM becoming impatient with the lack of progress towards NATO and EU accession, with this element affecting Albanian communities in southern Serbia, Kosovo and even Montenegro.

In terms of closely watched EU-Turkey ties, all of the participants on the CSIS panel expressed their solid support for the neighbouring country's full membership into the 27-nation bloc, while at the same stressing that the Ankara government and Turkish leadership must fulfill all commitments vis-à-vis the EU, something also emphasised by Grossman, a past US ambassador to Turkey.
"It is extremely important that people honour agreements," Grossman said in referring to Turkey, praising what he called the EU's high and unwavering standards.
Conley also underlined that Turkey should fulfill its commitments and open its ports and airports to Cypriot carriers -- days before an EU summit will gauge Ankara's progress in meeting EU criteria.

Source: Athens News Agency

falak pema's picture

Hey, the mother of all ponzi Oligarchic frauds is the US economy and Congress, home territory of the Squid. What more needs to be said. It all starts and ends there, the rest are Euro satrapies of the Oligarchs. One big nebulous. Don't talk about the trees talk about the Forrest.

trx's picture

This is not only a Greek phenomen - it's more lite a "tip of an iceberg" in the pherperial euro zone.

Check out this post:

Poland Goes South?



trx's picture

This is not only a Greek phenomen - it's more lite a "tip of an iceberg" in the pherperial euro zone.

Check out this post:

Poland Goes South?



London Banker's picture

This is almost exactly the same story as Bank Petra failure in late 1980s - founded by CIA-neocon tool Ahmad Chalabi in Jordan and looted of $300,000,000 in similar frauds to connected relatives' Swiss bank accounts.  The US ambassador as Chairman of the board practically is a hallmark of this sort of thing.  The old frauds are the best frauds, and the connections between US intelligence agencies and Greek corruption go way back.

After exiting Jordan in the boot of a car, Chalabi turned up in London and established the Iraqi National Congress. From there he fabricated the "intelligence" which justified the Bush/neo-con war in Iraq.   The US flew Chalabi into Iraq following the invasion - with two thousand US trained Iraqi militia - and he has looted his own country ever since.  Perhaps Mr Lavrentiadis can expect a similarly successful second career?



GMadScientist's picture

The CIA can't disburse funds from helicopters; "too conspicuous", the report said, but they need dollars et al in briefcases they open "branches" locally.

One wonders how much of that $300M (or Proton's $1B) has funded terror in a country near you?

Don't worry though...they're backed by the $24B missing from Iraq so their Tier 1 looks cool.

jeff montanye's picture

ahmed chalabi was appointed iraq's oil minister and later deputy prime minister by the u.s. in 2005/6.  couldn't win a seat in parliament when the iraqis got a chance to vote though.  democracy's no guarantee but it's better than nothing.  paul/johnson '12

ratso's picture

Democracy is a great deal more than voting.  There has to be a bedrock of democratic culture on which it is built; without that - you get smoke, mirrors and lies.  You still get some of that with the bedrock but it is easier to self-correct. There isn't a great deal of that kind of bedrock out their so be careful where you try to build democracy.

Socratic Dog's picture

Not too much here, if you consider the numbers who bother voting to mean anything.

More vote in Iraq than in the US.  A lot more, I recall.

Widowmaker's picture

Oh, like this is some sort of surprise.

TARP and TBTF make Proton thugs look like the girl scouts. Lehman was 10x more corrupt, and all of this should illustrate the financial abortion frequency occurring daily for the 1% trying to be sold as capitalism to the 99%.

Its only criminal when someone else does it, and never a crime unless prosecuted.

Support crime, fraud and fascism - use fiat, and vote Bush 2012, spelled Obama.

Treason Season's picture

Another excelllent report on Hellenic intrigue comes from Mark Ames at The Exiled linked from Naked Capitalism. Actually Tyler should post it in its entirety.

whoisjohngalt11's picture

Greece spinning out of control and November 17 is bad for every one.. Protesters run out of sypathy the longer they protest...RIGHTOR??: Scum bag , Insane Occupy Protesters now screaming at little kids headed to primary school..Americans need to make them stop..

prains's picture

send in the proton torpedoes

f16hoser's picture

Send in Jason Borne. Enough is Enough! Bernanke, you're killing me!

P.s Is this Proton Bank an Obama contributor? I'm sensing a trend here.....

vegas's picture

Blue Horseshoe likes Gold Valley.

Freddie's picture

Proton Bank = Greek version of MF Worldwide run by Democrat & friend of Obama plus Ex Goldman John Corzine.

JR's picture

Looks as if the whole thing is going to blow.  When you have Goldman Sachs-type officials in all the critical financial positions throughout the world – all unaccountable to the people – the system can’t sustain itself. A system that fosters corrupt debt bondage with an unstable and fraudulent medium of exchange controlled by reprehensible thieves can’t feed the people, repair the roads, fight the wars, or build a nation, especially when the money’s debauched, or worse yet, worthless.

These people have gone beyond control of the monetary system; they have deliberately politicized the markets and regulators, the justice system, the democratic institutions, the media… by overriding representative governments.

Worldwide exposure and investigative journalism such as Zero Hedge offers exposes the unvarnished truth and is our greatest weapon. Zero Hedge takes an event, provides the background, makes the connections and adds the knowledge. There’s nothing like it on the Internet.

Thanks, testosteronepit.

max2205's picture

Because that's how we roll bitchezzzes!

covert's picture

the greeks are counting on us and the rest to be stupid suckers and they are probably right.


jeff montanye's picture

"some will rob you with a six gun and some with a fountain pen".  how much of this kind of greek style utterly lawless fraud and theft is characteristic of the u.s.?  is mf global the tip of the iceberg?  

when the reform president of the party of the working man (who swore, poorly, to uphold the constitution) now says he can order a citizen killed by unappealable executive order, one wonders.

GMadScientist's picture

In a word: rampant; their litigation reserves stand as testament.


g speed's picture

Yep--MF global is the tip --- or tip off-- crime is alive and doing well.