Wolf Richter, 18 November 2011
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.