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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-03-06

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Tuesday, 6 March 2012 Issue No: 4014

CONTENTS

  • [01] Energy ministry announces Greece-Cyprus-Israel cooperation memorandum
  • [02] PM confers with FinMin
  • [03] PM to meet PASOK leader on Tuesday
  • [04] PASOK circular on election of new party leader
  • [05] Samaras meets with ND-affiliated trade unionists
  • [06] Voridis issues acerbic response to Karatzaferis criticism
  • [07] KKE on so-called 'potato movement'
  • [08] Gov't says millions saved in the ERT operating costs
  • [09] EU: Cyprus' reunification only solution on table
  • [10] Greek frigate recalled early from Somalia, in bid to cut costs
  • [11] Ombudsman office seeks new rent reduction, following press reports
  • [12] FinMin: Return of deposits must be encouraged
  • [13] Greek pension funds to suffer 53 pct haircut in bond portfolios
  • [14] Greece is 4th most popular holiday destination in 2012, Eurobarometer survey finds
  • [15] Tourist arrivals to reach 16 mln in 2012, SETE predicts
  • [16] EU Commission report highlights lack of women on boards of EU, Greek enterprises
  • [17] Unions to seek annulment of labour sector reforms
  • [18] Eurodrip fully acquires subsidiary in Peru
  • [19] Bussiness Briefs
  • [20] Stocks end 1.95 pct down
  • [21] Greek bond market closing report
  • [22] ADEX closing report
  • [23] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday
  • [24] Supply tanker sinks after ramming into shipwreck, body of missing captain found
  • [25] 45 suspected members of major antiquities smuggling ring to testify before examining magistrate
  • [26] Lavrentiadis offers to return another 80 mln euros to Proton Bank
  • [27] Police track down, arrest suspect for Aigeira bank robbery
  • [28] Ukrainian embassy event to honor poet Shevchenko
  • [29] Cloudy, showers on Tuesday
  • [30] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Energy ministry announces Greece-Cyprus-Israel cooperation memorandum

    Greece, Cyprus and Israel will sign a memorandum of cooperation on energy issues at the end of this month, Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister George Papaconstantinou announced during a press conference on Monday.

    He also announced plans for new tenders to conduct hydrocarbon surveys in 10-12 areas of mainland Greece in July, including Evros, Kavala, Serres, Thessaloniki, Grevena, Aitoloakarnania, Messinia, Achaia and possibly Crete.

    The memorandum will refer to the possibility of linking up the electricity grids of the three countries and the prospects of cooperation in the transfer of natural gas that has been discovered or will be discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe via Greece, now that Greece has also begun searching for hydrocarbon fuels.

    Papaconstantinou said that the situation emerging in Cyprus and Israel and the prospects for Greece were discussed during the last EU energy ministers' council since it creates the potential prospect of a third, alternative source of natural gas supplies for Europe, apart from Russia and the Caspian Sea.

    The minister said that the response to a tender to conduct seismic surveys in the Ionian Sea and waters south of Crete, the deadline for which expired last Friday, had exceeded all expectations.

    A total of eight bids were submitted and their evaluation will be completed over the coming month with a view to signing contracts in April.

    The data from the seismic surveys is expected to be evaluated by the end of the year and tenders for concessions to carry out exploratory drilling in up to 15 fields are due to be held by the first months of 2013.

    In the meantime, the ministry has already launched a tender for the start of exploratory drilling in three areas that have already been surveyed and shown to have hydrocarbons - in the Patras Gulf, Katakolo and Ioannina, which contain estimated reserves of 200, 80 and 3-4 million barrels, respectively. The deadline for bids expires in July.

    Replying to questions, Papaconstantinou said that the government had agreed to extend the area covered by the contract with the company Energean, which currently exploits the Prinos oil fields in northern Greece, as well as the duration of the contract. He confirmed that Energean and the Italian company Edison will cooperate in conducting a study on creating an underground natural gas reservoir in one of the exhausted fields at Prinos.

    [02] PM confers with FinMin

    Prime minister Lucas Papademos met on Monday with government vice president and finance minister Evangelos Venizelos for a review of matters concerning the Greek economy.

    During the 90-minute meeting, the two men discussed the course of the PSI, the country's new economic programme and the new loan agreement.

    [03] PM to meet PASOK leader on Tuesday

    Prime Minister Lucas Papademos will be receiving at his office PASOK party leader George Papandreou at noon on Tuesday, it was announced on Monday.

    [04] PASOK circular on election of new party leader

    PASOK national council secretary Mihalis Karhimakis on Monday forwarded a circular to party organizations nationwide formally announcing that the new party president will be elected on March 18 by the socialist party's grass roots.

    A national party congress will be held on March 9 and 10 to draw up the party's agenda.

    The register of PASOK party members and friends will be sealed on March 5 to be reopened on election day to allow registration of new members and friends within the framework of the "open procedure" followed back in 2007.

    Polls will be set up in municipalities nationwide. According to the circular, all Greek citizens can vote in the election of the new PASOK president by demonstrating their police identity card or passport; EU citizens with their passport and migrants after displaying their residence permit. All voters will have to pay a 2-euro fee to a designated returning board member to participate in the election.

    [05] Samaras meets with ND-affiliated trade unionists

    New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Monday met with representatives of the ND-affiliated DAKE trade unionists, where he repeated his firm positions as regards public sector reforms.

    According to reports, Samaras rejected the prospect of new wage reductions, adding that he is in favour of the labour reserve measure. However, ND officials pointed out that the reduction of the public sector's size, as demanded by the EC-ECB-IMF 'troika', needs to be further discussed with all the parties involved.

    Samaras also met with the board members of the taxi owners' federation, and discussed a draft law on the sector's deregu-lation to be tabled to parliament soon.

    ND cadres at the meeting noted that the party is in favour of the opening of the profession based on terms and preconditions that will make it viable and ensure better services for consumers.

    [06] Voridis issues acerbic response to Karatzaferis criticism

    Transport Minister Makis Voridis on Monday returned the sharp criticism against him by LA.OS. president George Karatzaferis, a little more than a week after the former left Karatzaferis' party and joined New Democracy.

    "I suppose that the LA.O.S (Popular Orthodox Rally) president sees himself as another Leonidas, Jesus Christ and Caesar, all at the same time," said Voridis, who was elected to Parliament on LA.O.S' ticket.

    He joined ND after voting in favour of the new Memorandum, in defiance of LA.O.S party lines.

    Voridis spoke on public radio when asked about the characterisations directed at him, such as "Brutus, Judas and Ephialtes (the eponymous traitor at the Battle of Thermo-pylae)."

    Referring to what's at stake in the national elections, Voridis stressed that the dilemma is clear, namely, whether the country will continue to be an EU and Eurozone member.

    "If we are willing to make the necessary efforts, as a country and as citizens, to remain in an alliance of strong states, the people should vote for a government that will guarantee just that ... ND is the political party that can guarantee such a government and the only person that can play the role of the prime minister under these terms is its leader Antonis Samaras," Voridis said.

    [07] KKE on so-called 'potato movement'

    The Communist Party (KKE) press office in a statement issued on Monday spoke about ulterior motives referring to "attempts made by certain media to misinterpret the party's positions by alleging that it supports the middlemen or that it is not supportive of the farmers and the people who are forced to seek low price products".

    The statement refers to the so-called "Potato Movement", a series of initiatives to cut out middlemen in the sale of farm products to consumers, stressing that this movement could take up the form of a definitive and permanent solution under certain preconditions.

    According to KKE, initiatives such as "the 'Potato Movement' have very limited potential and cannot solve the problem of the farmers' exploitation by the capitalists or the problem of poverty and hunger affecting low income families as a result of the cruel policy implemented by the troika and the government."

    The KKE stressed that "parasites called monopolies and middlemen should be brushed aside," adding that central planning in all stages of food production is imperative.

    [08] Gov't says millions saved in the ERT operating costs

    "In the past two years, the public-run ERT television has cut its annual operating cost by 150 million euros," Minister of State and government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis on Monday stated in response to New Democracy (ND) mass media sector head MP Simos Kedikoglou, who charged that his tabled question on ERT and AMNA, addressed to the government spokesman, was not discussed in Parliament.

    "I do not know to what looting Mr. Kedikoglou refers" in his question, Kapsis stated, adding that there is still a lot to be done and that "the tidying up continues."

    [09] EU: Cyprus' reunification only solution on table

    BRUSSELS (AMNA / V. Demiris)

    The spokesman of European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Fule on Monday declined to comment on a statement made by Turkish European Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis, who said that "as regards the Cyprus issue, all options are on the table, including the likelihood of the annexation of northern Cyprus by Turkey".

    The Commission does not comment on statements or interpretations of statements made by politicians inside and outside Europe, the commissioner's spokesman, Peter Stano, stated.

    As regards the Cyprus issue, the spokesman repeated the Commission's firm position that only one solution is being considered, namely, the reunification of Cyprus on the basis of a bizonal and bicommunal federation.

    Stano underlined that all efforts should focus on reaching the aforementioned solution and to this end the European Commission calls on all parties involved to focus their efforts on a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem.

    [10] Greek frigate recalled early from Somalia, in bid to cut costs

    The Greek defence ministry on Monday ordered the Greek Navy frigate "Hydra" to withdraw from the European Union Naval Force's Operation Atalanta against Somalian pirates and to return to Greece a month earlier than planned.

    According to sources at the defence ministry, the decision for the frigate's premature departure and an end to Greece's participation in the EU NAVFOR Somalia operation this year was taken in order to cut costs and reduce ministry spending.

    The frigate has been in the region since January 29, carrying out patrols and escorting merchant vessels that might be targeted by pirates. It was originally scheduled to stay in the area for two months, since Greece's participation in Operation Atalanta was for two months in each six-month period.

    Greece will also not participate in Operation Atalanta during the second half of the year, thus saving 7.5 million euro during the current year. The cost of a frigate's participation in the European operation comes to 2.5 million euro per month.

    [11] Ombudsman office seeks new rent reduction, following press reports

    Greek Ombudsman Calliope Spanou on Monday met with financial prosecutor Grigoris Peponis on Monday to brief him over the actions taken by the independent authority to reduce its office rent again in response to the adverse financial situation.

    Media reports on the high rents paid by independent authorities prompted prosecutor Peponis' intervention a few days ago.

    A statement by the Ombudsman office underlined that the rent procedures concerning state agencies, the independent authority included, are the responsibility of the Athens' public real estate agency. The statement stressed that the rent paid remained high despite a recently achieved reduction considering ongoing economic crisis.

    Financial News

    [12] FinMin: Return of deposits must be encouraged

    Greek finance minister Evangelos Venizelos stressed the importance of encouragement the "movement of return" of deposits to Greek banks in order to help the economy and spur growth, speaking on Monday morning on private Antenna television station.

    He said that 70 billion euros in deposits have been withdrawn from banks in Greece since 2009, of which only 16 billion have been transferred as remittances abroad, while many billions are in homes "in mattresses or chests".

    Venizelos acknowledged that statements by politicians terrified the public with pictures of crisis, warning that if the economic psychology does not change, neither will the attitude of the people, while he also put blame on all the political parties for the crisis.

    He further charged that populism, demagoguery and "easy promises" continued to be rampant even in the midst of this "national misadventure".

    On taxation, Venizelos said that the state's collection mechanism cannot collect all the debts by itself, adding that a result will arise gradually, given that the government has to do battle with a decades-long situation. "We are a society full of exceptions. We need to put this in order. The citizens need to act with us in order to tackle tax-evasion," he said.

    Regarding the reductions in salaries, he said this will help contain unemployment, noting that the unemployment rate among youths up to 24 years of age has reached 50 percent.

    "Something needs to be done so that these young people can enter the job market," he said.

    He also said that salaries in the public sector had increased by 120 percent over the last years, but without this corresponding to the economy, adding that the greatest part of the country's expenditures went to salaries and social benefits.

    On the surtax on real estate, Venizelos said it was a "heavy but fair" measure, adding that if the country is saved, so will be the value of real estate, while also noting that 82 percent of the citizens have conformed with the measure and paid the surtax.

    Venizelos further said that measures need to be taken in order for the structural changes to progress so as to tender Greece a competitive country and generate primary surpluses.

    He also said that the first signs of recovery of the economy will appear with the solution of the issue of the banks and liquidity, but stressed that the government is not aiming at the nationalisation of banks.

    Venizelos said that the government had been led to defeat and needs to free itself fiscally, noting that everyone must take part in this effort.

    He predicted negative inflation, noted that there was still much taxable material that still remained untaxed, and stressed that despite the measures and in a period of constant recession the country's trade deficit was still large.

    Asked about the possibility of a post-elections governmental cooperation between PASOK and New Democracy (ND), Venizelos, who is also a government vice president, said that "the citizens will tell us how they want the country to be governed" with the outcome of the elections and the correlation of political forces that will arise.

    "The country has a European orientation and must be saved," Venizelos stressed.

    [13] Greek pension funds to suffer 53 pct haircut in bond portfolios

    Greek pension funds will see their Greek bond holdings' value be reduced by 53 pct, in line with a haircut agreed between the Greek state and private bondholders.

    The issue was discussed during a meeting chaired by Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos with Labor and Social Insurance Minister George Koutroumakis and the governors of pension funds. Greek pension funds own state bonds worth 21 billion euros, with pension funds purchases totaling 7.0 billion euros, while the remaining 14 billion euros were deposits with the Bank of Greece which were later invested in state bonds. Ministry officials said that pension funds which would use state bonds as collateral for their borrowing from commercial banks (in the form of repos) will see their bonds nominal value fall to 25 pct.

    A memorandum, recently ratified by Parliament, envisages that pension funds could use a mix of state property assets, shares, deposits and other sources to recover any losses suffered by their bond portfolios.

    [14] Greece is 4th most popular holiday destination in 2012, Eurobarometer survey finds

    BRUSSELS (AMNA - M. Aroni)

    Greece is the fourth most popular holiday destination for European citizens in 2012 - after Spain, Italy and France - according to a Flash Eurobarometer survey released in Brussels on Monday.

    Four percent of Europeans are planning a holiday in Greece within 2012, compared with 10 percent in Spain, 7 percent in Italy and 6 percent in France.

    The same survey showed that 70 percent of Greeks did not go on holiday in 2011, while 80 percent of Greeks that took holidays chose a destination within Greece. Of those that did not go on holiday, 70 percent said that this for financial reasons. This answer was only given by 45 percent of respondents in the EU as a whole.

    A further 48 percent of Greeks said that the current economic crisis had caused them to change their holiday plans for 2012 (compared with 33 percent in the EU) while another 35 percent replied that they do not plan to go on holiday.

    In Europe, 73 percent said that they intend to go on holiday in 2012.

    The most popular holiday destinations in 2011 were Spain (11 percent), Italy (9 percent), France (8 percent), Germany (5 percent), Austria (5 percent) and Greece (4 percent). During that year, more Europeans chose to take holidays in their own country (Greece - 80 percent, Italy - 74 percent, Croatia - 73 percent) or another EU country. This trend was even more marked in 2012.

    The survey was carried out using a random sample of 30,000 European citizens aged 15 years or over in the 27 EU member-states, Norway, Iceland, Croatia, Turkey, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Israel.

    [15] Tourist arrivals to reach 16 mln in 2012, SETE predicts

    Tourist arrivals will reach 16 million this year, with tourism revenues totaling 10 billion euros for the year, the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) predicted on Monday.

    Andreas Andreadis, president of SETE, speaking to reporters during a news conference, said that despite a slowdown in bookings so far this year, he remained optimistic that this trend could be reversed, adding it was necessary to boost confidence of the international tourism market towards Greece.

    "Today we communicate with the rest of the world and the message is that Greece can offer its hospitality, cuisine, landscape and its cultural heritage to the world. We are against any extreme positions and supporting the majority of Greeks who acknowledge the efforts made by Eurozone peoples to support our country. The time has come for Greek tourism to confirm its leading role in the economic growth of the country," Andreadis said.

    He announced that SETE will launch a campaign to inform tourists over what the country has to offer them, including hospitality packages for foreign journalists, ones aimed at reversing any negative climate towards Greece by international media.

    [16] EU Commission report highlights lack of women on boards of EU, Greek enterprises

    BRUSSELS (AMNA - M. Spinthourakis)

    Women are still under-represented on the boards of Europe's major companies and this effect is even more apparent in Greece, according to a European Commission report released on Monday.

    This found that only one in seven board members of Europe's top firms (13.7 percent) are women, while the percentage in Greece is even smaller at 7.4 percent.

    The report stressed that gender balance in senior positions has been proved to increase business performance, competitiveness and profits. Among surveys cited by the Commission was a report by McKinsey showing that gender-balanced companies have operating profits that are 56 percent higher than those where the boards are men-only.

    A survey by Ernst & Young of the 290 largest listed companies found that the profits of those with at least one woman on their board were significantly higher than those companies with no female board members.

    One year after EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding called for credible self-regulatory measures to increase the number of women on company boards, the Commission noted that there had been slight improvement but that it would still take more than 40 years to reach a significant gender balance (at least 40 percent of both sexes) at the current rate.

    The Commission on Monday therefore launched a public consultation to identify appropriate measures for addressing the lack of gender diversity in boardrooms of listed companies in Europe, including legislative measures, that will run until May 28 this year.

    [17] Unions to seek annulment of labour sector reforms

    The General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), which represents the private sector, on Monday announced its intention to appeal to the Council of State (CoS), the country's highest administrative court, seeking the annulment of the government cabinet act that puts into effect a number of measures dictated by the new loan agreement.

    GSEE's statement underlined that the measures constitute a violent attack on collective work contracts and "lead fundamental individual and social rights to complete collapse". GSEE adds that it will resort to national and European institutions to have those measures annulled.

    According to trade unionist leaders, many employers appear unwilling to participate in sector work contact negotiations threatening to walk out of federations to avoid having to implement the new work contracts that will be signed.

    [18] Eurodrip fully acquires subsidiary in Peru

    Eurodrip, a subsidiary of Global Capital Investors II fund, on Monday announced the purchase of a remaining 40 pct in its subsidiary in Peru, Eurodrip Peru SAC, for 1.1 millon US dollars. Following the purchase, Eurodrip owns 100 pct of Eurodrip Peru, based in Lima.

    Global Finance acted as an advisor to the purchase.

    [19] Bussiness Briefs

    -- Greece's economic sentiment index was unchanged in February from the previous month, while the economic sentiment index improved further in the European Union and the Eurozone, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) announced on Monday.

    -- Greek exports are showing signs of fatigue as a result of a liquidity shortage, Dimitris Lakasas, president of Northern Greece's Exporters Association (SEBE) said on Monday.

    -- Car registrations plunged 43.8 pct in February, a drop of 27.4 pct in the first two months of 2012, compared with the same period in 2011, reflecting shrinking disposable incomes of citizens, despite sale offers by dealers, Hellenic Statistical Authority announced on Monday.

    -- The volume of private building activity dropped 25.8 pct in November 2011, for an average decline of 36 pct in the 11-month period last year, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Monday.

    -- Hellenic Exchanges Group on Monday reported a 26.3-pct decline in its consolidated net profits to 21.5 million euros in 2011, from 29.2 million in the previous year.

    [20] Stocks end 1.95 pct down

    Stocks ended significantly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, remaining on a correction trend as investors awaited the outcome of a PSI process on Thursday.

    The composite index of the market fell 1.95 pct to end at 734.70 points, with turnover remaining a low 31.698 million euros.

    The Big Cap index fell 2.93 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.82 pct lower and the Small Cap index dropped 1.96 pct. The Media (9.18 pct), Chemicals (1.93 pct) and Travel (0.96 pct) sectors scored gains, while Constructions (5.05 pct), Banks (4.49 pct), Financial Services (4.12 pct) and Teleco-mmunications (3.51 pct) suffered losses. OPAP (1.19 pct) and Jumbo (0.27 pct) scored gains, while Marfin Popular Bank (8.53 pct), Titan (5.98 pct), National Bank (5.33 pct), Piraeus Bank (5.30 pct) and MIG (4.94 pct) were top losers.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 88 to 56 with another 21 issues unchanged. Viokarpet (29.65 pct), Kordellou Bros (29.39 pct) and HOL (19.80 pct) were top gainers, while Newsphone Hellas (21.4 pct), Audiovisual (15.83 pct) and Perseus (15.26 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: -0.48%

    Commercial: -1.90%

    Construction: -5.05%

    Media +9.18%

    Oil & Gas: -0.96%

    Personal & Household: -0.42%

    Raw Materials: -1.21%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.96%

    Technology: -3.09%

    Telecoms: -3.51%

    Banks: -4.49%

    Food & Beverages: -1.37%

    Health: -2.36%

    Utilities: -2.94%

    Chemicals: +1.93%

    Financial Services: -4.12%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, National Bank, Alpha Bank and Eurobank.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 1.30

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.37

    HBC Coca Cola: 14.30

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.44

    National Bank of Greece: 2.31

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.98

    OPAP: 6.82

    OTE: 2.20

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.45

    Titan: 13.51

    [21] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 27.65 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Monday, from 28.48 pct on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 29.46 pct and the German Bund 1.81 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate was 1.57 pct, the six-month rate 1.24 pct, the three-month rate was 0.93 pct and the one-month rate 0.52 pct.

    [22] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.55 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover shrinking to a low 11.772 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 5,496 contracts worth 8.177 million euros, with 25,626 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 20,763 contracts worth 3.595 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (6,943), followed by Cyprus Bank (3,041), OTE (1,315), PPC (593), OPAP (343), Piraeus Bank (389), National Bank (4,778), Marfin Popular Bank (1,236), Mytilineos (291), Hellenic Postbank (291), GEK (775) and Intralot (195).

    [23] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.341

    Pound sterling 0.847

    Danish kroner 7.545

    Swedish kroner 8.970

    Japanese yen 109.15

    Swiss franc 1.224

    Norwegian kroner 7.531

    Canadian dollar 1.332

    Australian dollar 1.253

    General News

    [24] Supply tanker sinks after ramming into shipwreck, body of missing captain found

    Scuba divers on Monday recovered the body of a 48-year-old supply tanker captain who was drowned when his ship sank off Elefsina earlier the same morning. The captain's body was found trapped inside the vessel.

    Early indications are that the supply ship AA1, belonging the company Viamare, sank into waters off Elefsina after its hull collided with a submerged shipwreck in the area. The ship had a crew of 11 and was loaded with 1,800 tonnes of crude and 253 tonnes of fuel.

    The remaining 10 crew members are safe and well, however some of them were sent to hospital for precautionary reasons. They were rescued from the sea by other vessels sailing nearby.

    Authorities intend to question the survivors in order to shed light on the cause of the accident. The file on the case will now be forwarded to the Piraeus first-instance court prosecutor and the Merchant Navy's Naval Accidents Investigating Council.

    No oil slick ensued has from the accident thus far, but a floating containment boom was placed around the vessel as a precaution.

    The head of the Elefsina port authority Yianna Kriekouki said that human error may have been the cause of the accident, since the ship had veered off its declared course at the point where the collision is believed to have occurred.

    She noted that there are 20 shipwrecks recorded in the area, all of which are clearly marked, including the spot where the collision may have taken place.

    [25] 45 suspected members of major antiquities smuggling ring to testify before examining magistrate

    The 45 suspected members of a major antiquities smuggling ring uncovered in northern Greece, including a 66-year-old man believed to be the masterminded of the ring, will testify before an examining magistrate on Tuesday and Wednesday, after appearing before a Thessaloniki public prosecutor on Sunday afternoon, facing felony charges.

    Authorities stumbled onto the ring by chance in mid-2011, following the disappearance of a 68-year-old man after his involvement in a traffic accident in Pefkochori, Halkidiki. Police sought and received permission to lift the confidentiality of telephone conversations at the time, and uncovered suspicious discussions in which the 68-year-old was seeking to sell ancient artifacts.

    In the course of the investigation, a 66-year-old man, suspected of masterminding the illicit trade in antiquities was arrested, along with 44 other suspects, ranging in ages from 25-74 -- including pensioners, municipal employees and professionals.

    According to police, the 66-year-old aimed to sell the antiquities, recovered during illegal excavations, abroad. Often times the artefacts were sent abroad in envelopes and in small quantities in order to avoid suspicion.

    Authorities said the ring was mainly active in northern and central Greece, namely, in Halkidiki, Thessaloniki, Kilkis, Pella, Imathia, Pieria, Serres, Kavala, Drama, Karditsa, Trikala, Larissa and Fthiotida prefectures.

    A large number of golden and silver coins as well as priceless artefacts have been confiscated, dating from the 6th century BC to the Byzantine era.

    The ring, one of the biggest antiquities trafficking rings to be uncovered in Greece, was based in Halkidiki and had "representatives" in a total of 13 prefectures in Macedonia, Thessaly and central mainland (Sterea) Greece.

    A total of 45 suspected ring members have been arrested so far, and archaeological artifacts of inestimable value found in their possession have been confiscated, including approximately 10,000 ancient coins dating from the 6th century BC to the post-Byzantine period, most of them copper, as well as gold artifacts, jewelry, statuettes, Byzantine icons and a trove of other antiquities, together with catalogues of antiquities, metal detectors and also firearms.

    Among the objects of exceptional importance and singled out by authorities are two Byzantine-era diptych icons depicting saints, while exceptionally rare is a silver tetradrachm (four-drachma coin) of the Hellenistic Period bearing the figure of Zeus or Heracles.

    The 66-year-old alleged mastermind of the ring is a retired customs broker from Gerakarou, Thessaloniki. The artifacts were brought to the 66-year-old who assessed their value and channeled them to private collectors or auction houses in the US, Britain, Switzerland, Germany and Bulgaria.

    Most of the ring members were "seekers", who carried out illegal excavations in rural areas in Macedonia and Thessaly in search of ancient objects, which they turned over to the leader. Among the "seekers" were pensioners, private and municipal employees, and freelance professionals.

    According to police, the seized artifacts include some 10,000 coins

    [26] Lavrentiadis offers to return another 80 mln euros to Proton Bank

    Embattled businessman Lavrentis Lavrentiadis on Monday requested additional time and a stay in any judicial action against him from an Athens prosecutor in order to return 80 million euros to the small Athens-based Proton Bank, in which he held a controlling share up until recently.

    A petition signed by Lavrentiadis and his two lawyers was filed with prosecutor Ioannis Dragatsis, four days following another prosecutor's recommendation to file four felony charges against the former.

    He has already returned 51 million euros to the bank, which was subsequently nationalised to avoid insolvency.

    Amongst others, Lavrentiadis and several former Proton executives are charged with funneling 701 million euros in risky loans to companies controlled by the former and his associates.

    [27] Police track down, arrest suspect for Aigeira bank robbery

    Police in the coastal town of Aigio on Monday said they had tracked down and arrested one of four men suspected of carrying out a bank robbery targeting a branch of National Bank of Greece in Aigeira, Achaia a year earlier.

    The suspect arrested was a 35-year-old Albanian man that has been convicted of similar offences in the past.

    Based on evidence uncovered during their investigation and the method used by the robbers, Aigio security police are now investigating whether the same group of four men is linked with other armed robberies around the country.

    The four robbers had broken down the door of the bank by ramming it with a stolen jeep and had got away with more than 30,000 euro.

    [28] Ukrainian embassy event to honor poet Shevchenko

    The Ukrainian embassy in Athens this week will honor the 198th anniversary of the birth of poet, artist and humanist Taras Shevchenko.

    An event will be held on Wednesday at the Ukrainian embassy in Athens, in cooperation with several associations representing Ukrainians in Greece.

    A wreath-laying ceremony at the monument of Shevchenko, in the east Athens Zografou district's Goudi Park, will take place on the same day.

    Weather forecast

    [29] Cloudy, showers on Tuesday

    Clouds and showers are forecast throughout Greece on Tuesday, with storms over the Dodecanese island group early in the day. Winds from mainly east northeasterly directions, ranging from 3-6 Beaufort. Temperatures will be between -2C and 15C. Clouds and showers in Athens, with temperatures from 8C to 15C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures from 4C to 11C.

    [30] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The procedures for the implementation of the PSI and the imminent snap elections as well as the taxation on real estate, mostly dominated the headlines on Monday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "General elections on 29 April or May 6".

    AVRIANI: "Return to drachma the only solution for Greece".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Endless torture with new venomous measures".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "New surcharge with...variation".

    ESTIA: "Possible surprises in snap elections".

    ETHNOS: "Fewer university entrants than in 2011".

    IMERISSIA: "Twenty suitors for DEPA (state-own gas company) and DESFA (gas grid operator)".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Crucial week for the implementation of the PSI".

    TA NEA: "20 taxes skyrocket".

    VRADYNI: "Twelve traps for taxpayers".

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