An alleged plot to defraud the Greek government by using a formerly Athens-based NGO as a front for international de-mining operations has reportedly ensnared a one-time advisor to former Premier George Papandreou and led the state to now look into the operations of some 6,000 other private agencies getting public funding.
Greek media said that three former and three current diplomats were tied to the International Mine Initiative, including Alex Rondos, who told the newspaper Ethnos he was surprised to find his name among them, saying he had followed procedures while at the Foreign Ministry, though he said they were “problematical and inadequate.”
Papandreou’s office also issued a statement, claiming that regulations for state funding to NGOs were put in place during his term as PM and accusing certain media of trying to “indirectly implicate” him in the scandal which reportedly found officials at the de-mining agency had stolen nine million euros while saying they were running operations in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, where Greek consular officials reportedly didn’t check on them.
The newspaper Kathimerini said the growing probe is focusing on NGOs that secured amounts in excess of 5 million euros, while two of the cases are now in the hands of prosecutors. The two cases are said to involve an NGO called the Circle of Patmos, a group organizing events linking religious and environmental issues which is alleged to have benefited from 9.5 million euros in state funding.
The second NGO is the de-mining Center, whose leader, journalist Costas Tzevelekos, has been detained on charges of fraud, and another seven people, including the diplomats. Investigators believe those involved used the government money for personal expenses and lavish spending.