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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-06-28

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

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

Thursday, 28 June 2012 Issue No: 4107

CONTENTS

  • [01] New parliament to be sworn in on Thursday
  • [02] PM continues phone contacts with foreign leaders
  • [03] Venizelos leaves for Brussels on Wednesday
  • [04] Kouvelis: Development must be incorporated in EU's economic governance
  • [05] Gov't not participating in new EU developments, SYRIZA says
  • [06] Government spokesman says Tsipras exercising 'opposition to country'
  • [07] SYRIZA leader meets PPC chief, asks that he suspends cutting power to households
  • [08] Venizelos addresses first meeting of new PASOK parliamentary group
  • [09] KKE on objections to privatising civil aviation service; questions over FIR
  • [10] Costs of pharmaceuticals should be covered by state, KKE leader says
  • [11] FM spokesman comments on latest quips by fYRoM PM
  • [12] Administrative Reform minister briefed Task Force for Greece in Brussels
  • [13] Ministry denies media reports of high public-sector hiring in 2009-2011
  • [14] Academics object to transfer of research secretariat to development ministry, seek meeting with PM
  • [15] Circle of 'Friends of Greece' by Eurodeputies founded in Brussels
  • [16] Patriarch of Alexandria received by newly elected Egyptian president Morsi
  • [17] Employment down 8.7 pct in Q1
  • [18] Rapanos to resign from NBG, bank sources say
  • [19] National Bank CFO resigns
  • [20] National Bank managing director to resign according to reports
  • [21] Shipping & Aegean minister briefs personnel
  • [22] Fines on food companies for violating existing legislation
  • [23] Business Briefs
  • [24] Stocks end moderately higher
  • [25] Greek bond market closing report
  • [26] ADEX closing report
  • [27] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [28] Attack against Microsoft with booby-trapped van
  • [29] Twenty three accused of bank robberies in northern Greece
  • [30] Nine arrested in 'abductions for ransom' gang
  • [31] Armed robbery case solved
  • [32] Two men attempt to steal 15-ton bridge
  • [33] Arrests on Crete in fake driver's license scam
  • [34] Drug arrests in Patras region
  • [35] Ecumenical Patriarch arrives in Kozani
  • [36] Harbour police report peak in accidental drownings in 2012
  • [37] Major Greco-Italian archaeological con'f on Lesvos
  • [38] Mid-period Byzantine temple brought to light at Tempi
  • [39] Brush fire reported near houses in Ano Glyfada, Athens
  • [40] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] New parliament to be sworn in on Thursday

    The new 300-member Parliament that emerged from the June 17 elections will be sworn in on Thursday.

    The parliament president will be elected in a Parliamentary vote on Friday, June 29. Evangelos Meimarakis is the candidate proposed by New Democracy (ND) for the post. A technicality concerning the 7th vice-president, who based on Parliament's rules comes from the fifth largest party (or fourth opposition party), remains to be resolved. According to reports, there is opposition by both the coalition partners and main opposition to the 7th VP being filled by a candidate from the ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) party.

    The date for the presentation of the government's policy platforms has not been set yet.

    The three-party government (ND-PASOK-DIM.AR) will ask for a vote of confidence on July 6.

    [02] PM continues phone contacts with foreign leaders

    Prime Minister Antonis Samarascontinued a series of telephone conversations with foreign leaders on Wednesday, starting with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti.

    Later on Wednesday afternoon he also spoke with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and on Wednesday night he is scheduled to speak with French President Francois Hollande.

    [03] Venizelos leaves for Brussels on Wednesday

    PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos will leave at 17:00 on Wednesday for Brussels. On Thursday Venizelos will participate in the European Socialist Party meeting which is held before every EU Summit.

    [04] Kouvelis: Development must be incorporated in EU's economic governance

    The incorporation of development into the process of Europe's economic governance and achieving an extension for Greece's fiscal adjustment are the two important issues that need to be put forward at the EU Summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, Democratic Renewal (DIMAR) leader, whose party is a junior partner in Greece's new coalition government, said on Wednesday after a half-hour working meeting with President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, who will represent Greece at the Summit.

    Kouvelis said that the situation in Europe is exceptionally critical, as recession has hit not only the countries of the European south but also the wider EU, and thus development is an important demand on the part of Greece.

    He also said an extension of Greece's fiscal adjustment would be a relief for the Greek society from the "merciless and ineffective" austerity measures that have been imposed in the country.

    [05] Gov't not participating in new EU developments, SYRIZA says

    The Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) party on Wednesday accused the government of not participating in the emerging developments in the European Union but remaining attached to the bailout Memorandum, making it one of the powers whose policies were making the crisis more acute.

    In an announcement, SYRIZA noted that statements made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday and insistence on defending policies of harsh austerity and fiscal discipline, highlighted the dead-end nature of neoliberalism that was leading to the disintegration of the EU and the poverty and unemployment of its people.

    [06] Government spokesman says Tsipras exercising 'opposition to country'

    Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Wednesday criticised Radical Left Coalition's (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group president Alexis Tsipras's statements saying he was exercising opposition to the country.

    "Mr. Tsipras a day before the summit, instead of contributing to the national effort, is choosing once again to exercise opposition to the country itself," Kedikoglou said in a reply to what the SYRIZA leader said the same day regarding the June 28-29 EU summit.

    "Evidently, this is what SYRIZA means when it speaks to the Greek people of responsible opposition," Kedikoglou added.

    [07] SYRIZA leader meets PPC chief, asks that he suspends cutting power to households

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) party leader Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday met the Public Power Corporation's (PPC) chief Arthouros Zervos to discuss the power company's policy of cutting off power to households in arrears with payments, stressing that electricity was a vital social necessity that households could not be denied.

    On the issue of electricity rates, Zervos repeated that the PPC would not call for an increase in rates but would present the current situation in the energy market to the Environment, Energy and Climate Change ministry so decisions could be taken. He also assured Tsipras that there would be no shortage of electricity supply over the summer when demand was higher.

    After the meeting, Tsipras noted that a large part of the population was unfortunately living on the border of utter poverty and unable to make ends meet, including the unemployed, low paid and those on low pensions that were living below the poverty line.

    "For those sections of the population there must be provision so that they are able to have access to a social good that is absolutely necessary for survival, such as electricity," he said.

    Tsipras said he asked for the PPC to suspend procedures for cutting power until the issue goes before the new Parliament and a final decision on the issue is taken.

    "We consider that there is a level of understanding with the PPC management and we believe that in the next period we must at least all help so as to create the conditions for taking political decisions so that the PPC can live up to its social role," Tsipras said.

    According to Tsipras, the issue was purely political and did not fall strictly within the powers and duties of the PPC's management.

    "What we asked is that, until there is a final political decision that must be taken by the Greek Parliament, that the PPC's management understand this explosive problem so that there is at least a suspension of the processes, precisely because the problem that exists for the management also is that they cannot choose, they do not have the right information so that they can objectively decide which households are really living below the poverty line and which have the ability to pay, if you will," he added.

    Tsipras said that SYRIZA wanted to help in this direction, so that it was possible to objectively discriminate between those households that were at the limits of survival or below the poverty line, with the state supplying the PPC with the necessary information concerning the status of each household.

    [08] Venizelos addresses first meeting of new PASOK parliamentary group

    Although PASOK was collaborating with New Democracy (ND) in the coalition government, they did not identify either with respect to values or ideology, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos said Wednesday, addressing the first formal meeting of his party's new parliamentary group.

    Venizelos said that PASOK was fully aware of its ideological identity and although it acknowledged to ND the first responsibility for the formation of a government as it was the top vote-getter in the June 17 elections, it nevertheless does not forget ND's "immense blame for where we are today", and accused ND of a 'blind anti-Memorandum rationale" at a first stage and of leading the country to elections and feeding the extreme manufactured polarisation with SYRIZA, whereas now ND and Samaras "will realise what they pretended they did not understand, in other words what PASOK had been shouldering by itself".

    Venizelos also announced that Michalis Chryssohoidis and Evi Christofilopoulou will be PASOK's parliamentary spokespersons.

    [09] KKE on objections to privatising civil aviation service; questions over FIR

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga on Wednesday expressed objections to the privatisation of the civil aviation service and further privatisations of Greek airports, during a meeting with a civil aviation service union delegation at her party's headquarters in Perissos.

    "The issue of not going ahead with the privatisation of the Civil Aviation Service will be among the first that we will raise," she promised in statements afterward, adding that the party also opposed the privatisation of airports, considering that these must belong to the state and be subject to nationwide planning that took into account their role in tourism but also the country's sovereign rights.

    "We are well aware that the Civil Aviation Service is related to the flight information region and this concerns us greatly, because we know that there is a plan to pass responsibility for the FIR to other countries and other territories, either in Italy or in Romania," Papariga said.

    She said that the issue will be raised in Parliament separately and not as part of a general reference opposing privatisations.

    According to the head of the civil aviation staff union OSYPA Vassilis Alevizopoulos, the union was against the selling of airports, while he claimed that an "ugly game" was being played between Greece and Germany over the Athens FIR, which was an issues of national security and Greek air space.

    [10] Costs of pharmaceuticals should be covered by state, KKE leader says

    Responding to a question about the disruption of the pharmaceuticals market and pharmacists ongoing refusal to supply drugs on credit unless they are paid the money owed to them by social insurance funds, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga on Wednesday said the cost should be subsidised by the state.

    "We ask that the issue of the drugs be financed and, in fact, that the money owed to pharmacists is paid. Nevertheless, the greater part of the subsidy given was from the workers' own contributions. It is not possible to transfer money from the pockets of one to put them in the pockets of another because in this way the social insurance funds will be demolished entirely. The subsidy must be given exclusively from state funds," she stated, adding that the state could have held back interest payments instead.

    [11] FM spokesman comments on latest quips by fYRoM PM

    A foreign ministry spokesman on Wednesday reiterated Greece's long-standing and steadfast desire to resolve the issue of the name of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) through negotiations, as foreseen by UNSC resolutions.

    Spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras referred to recent high-profile statements by the prime minister of the neighbouring country, Nikola Gruevski, who claimed that Athens is exercising a policy of "political genocide".

    "Achieving a mutually acceptable solution will release the potential in our bilateral relations and provide an impetus for the European and Euro-Atlantic prospects of the neighbouring country," Delavekouras said, while cautioning that a self-evident condition for the above is the cultivation of good-neighbourly relations.

    The foreign ministry spokesman referred directly to what he called "offensive and wild extremes" by officials of the Skopje government, which, he pointed out, come in the wake of a new Greek government assuming power. He warned that such comments are not conducive for the creation of a suitable climate towards achieving a mutually acceptable solution to the 'name issue'.

    "On the contrary, they undermine bilateral relations and fuel the systematic negative government propaganda that aims to turn the public opinion of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia against Greece," he said.

    [12] Administrative Reform minister briefed Task Force for Greece in Brussels

    Administrative Reform and e-Government Minister Antonis Manitakis, accompanied by Deputy Administrative Reform Minister Manousos Voloudakis, held the fourth meeting with the European Commission's Task Force for Greece and briefed them on the progress made in reorganising Greece's public administration systems during a visit to Brussels.

    The meeting was held on Tuesday, with Manitakis stressing to the EU and international organisation experts tasked with providing technical assistance to Greece that the rapid reorganisation of its civil service and public administration was his ministry's top priority.

    He presented a detailed overview of the actions carried out to reform administrative systems, agreed jointly with the task force, the French government and the ministry. These concerned the overall reorganisation of civil service structures and functions, establishing a new and effective system for coordinating the government and improving services to the public and businesses.

    He agreed to accelerate implementation of the measures already decided and on deeper cooperation in areas concerning the simplification of procedures and electronic governance.

    [13] Ministry denies media reports of high public-sector hiring in 2009-2011

    The Administrative Reform and e-Government ministry on Wednesday denied press reports claiming that the state sector had violated restrictions on the hiring of public-sector staff agreed with Greece's creditors, stressing that these were strictly observed.

    Replying to claims that 70,000 additional staff had been taken on in the past two years, when Greece was already in the grip of the debt crisis and had agreed to reduce its public sector, the ministry presented its own figures and dismissed the reports as wildly exaggerated.

    Specifically, the ministry noted that an agreement had been reached with the EU-IMF troika for an upper limit of 8,000 new permanent staff in that year. It noted that 5,633 permanent staff was hired in that year, , mainly at the defence, health, education and citizen protection ministries. In addition, 3,424 individuals were transferred from the broader public sector bringing total staff hired in the civil service in 2011 to 9,057 individuals.

    Explaining the excess 1,057 hirings, the ministry said that this occurred because the ratio of hiring to departures was changed from 1:5 to 1:10 in the middle of the year. As a result, an agreement was reached with the troika to reduce the quota of new staff by that amount in 2012.

    In terms of temporary or seasonal staff, it was agreed that the number hired should be 30 percent lower in 2010 than in 2009. For the year 2011, hiring was reduced by 15 percent relative to that of 2010, while for the second half of 2011 it was reduced by 50 percent relative to 2010. In the following years, it was agreed that there would be further reductions of 10 percent until the year 2015.

    The hiring approved for 2009, 2010 and 2011 were for 133,852 people, 63,874 people and 34,959 people respectively, in line with the agreement for a gradual reduction.

    The ministry suggested that the information had been reproduced and propagated in the media before it had been cross-checked and confirmed by public services, creating a distorted and unfavourable image of the country abroad.

    [14] Academics object to transfer of research secretariat to development ministry, seek meeting with PM

    Greek teachers and researchers at universities, technical colleges but also research institutes on Wednesday repeated their objections to the transfer of the General Secretariat for Research and Technology to the development ministry from the education ministry in a letter sent to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, in which they ask to meet the premier.

    The academics note that the sudden decision was announcement without any prior discussion with the academic and research community and had not been included in New Democracy's policy platform before the elections. They underlined that the decision would "strike at the foundations of the single Higher Education and Research area laid in previous years and which had been supported by Samaras until now.

    Similar letters were also sent to the leaders of the two junior parties in the coalition government, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis.

    [15] Circle of 'Friends of Greece' by Eurodeputies founded in Brussels

    BRUSSELS (AMNA)

    Ten Eurodeputies signed the founding proclamation of the circle of Eurodeputies "Friends of Greece" in an event held in Brussels.

    The creation of the circle is an initiative by German Eurodeputy of Greek origin G. Hatzimarkakis (ALDE) and constitutes an effort to increase sensitisation for Greece and Greek culture.

    The aim of the circle of Eurodeputies "Friends of Greece" is to participate in initiatives that will develop a positive view for both the country and its culture, as well as to help Greece in the reforms process that has begun so as to have the strong message sent that the country is not facing the crisis alone but also has Europe at its side.

    [16] Patriarch of Alexandria received by newly elected Egyptian president Morsi

    Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa on Wednesday was received by newly elected Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi at the presidential mansion in Cairo, according to the Greek community newspaper "Neo Fos".

    The meeting that was held at the initiative of the Egyptian leader and also attended by representatives of the Anglican, Protestant and Maronite Churches of Egypt.

    The new Egyptian president stressed that Orthodox Christians have lived peacefully in Egypt for the past 2,000 years and accepted the patriarch's invitation to visit the Patriarchate in Alexandria. He stressed that all Egyptian people, regardless of their religion, have the same rights.

    The head of the Orthodox Church in Africa presented the new Egyptian leader with a silver platter decorated with the emblem of the Patriarchate.

    Financial News

    [17] Employment down 8.7 pct in Q1

    BRUSSELS (AMNA / V.Demiris)

    Employment fell by 8.7 pct in Greece in the first quarter of 2012, compared with the corresponding period last year, the European Commission said on Wednesday.

    In a report, published here, the EU's executive said that a total of 400,000 job positions were lost in the first three months of the year in Greece, while in Spain employment fell by 660,000, in Portugal by 210,000 and in Italy by 180,000 over the same period.

    The Commission noted that Greece was among a group of countries where employment was expected to deteriorate in the second half of 2012 in the services and construction sectors. The report said that unemployment in the 55-64 age group doubled in Greece, Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Latvia and Lithuania in the 2008-2011 period, while a 64 pct of Greeks aged 15-35 said there were ready to work to another European country.

    The Commission report said homeless people grew by 25 pct in 2011 compared with 2009, to 20,000, of which 50 pct were located in Athens and Piraeus. The Commission expects that social spending in Greece would be cut by 18 pct in the second half of the year.

    [18] Rapanos to resign from NBG, bank sources say

    National Bank of Greece governor Vassilis Rapanos has resigned from his position at the bank, according to information released by the NBG on Wednesday. He is expected to formally submit his resignation at a board meeting on Thursday morning, before the shareholders' general assembly.

    Rapanos, who first accepted and then turned down the job of Greek finance minister due to an unexpected health problem, is again expected to cite health problems as the reason for his resignation from the bank.

    [19] National Bank CFO resigns

    The chief financial officer of the National Bank (NBG) Charalambos Mazarakis on Wednesday tendered his resignation.

    The board of the NBG Group has issued a statement recognizing his "effectiveness in exercising his duties in extremely critical circumstances" and praises his sense of professionalism.

    According to earlier reports, the managing director of the National Bank of Greece Apostolos Tamvakakis will be resigning on Thursday after the conclusion of the National Bank's general assembly.

    [20] National Bank managing director to resign according to reports

    According to reports, the managing director of the National Bank of Greece Apostolos Tamvakakis will be resigning on Thursday after the conclusion of the National Bank's general assembly.

    [21] Shipping & Aegean minister briefs personnel

    Shipping & Aegean Minister Costis Mousouroulis on Wednesday outlined the initiatives he will undertake aimed at making the newly re-established ministry more functional.

    In a meeting with personnel representatives, he stressed that ministry departments and jurisdiction will be reviewed in order to improve its services and ensure administrative continuity.

    [22] Fines on food companies for violating existing legislation

    A total of 134 fines amounting to 806,000 euros were imposed by the Hellenic Food Authority (EFET) for violations of the existing legislation regulating the food sector, it was announced on Wednesday. The fines were imposed on companies active in the sectors of food production, trade and distribution.

    The violations include possession and distribution of food products that were unsafe for consumption, impure or adulterated. Also, adoption of practices aimed at misleading consumers, lack of operation license, inadequate sanitation and lack of self-control systems.

    [23] Business Briefs

    -- Eurobank on Wednesday announced the signing of a new collective labor agreement with its employees' union, which envisages wage cuts of up to 15 pct.

    [24] Stocks end moderately higher

    The stocks ended higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, in low trading conditions, supportred by gains in blue chip stocks. The composite index of the market rose 0.67 pct to end at 579.69 points, off the day's highs of 584.35 points. Turnover was a low 31.797 million euros.

    The Big Cap index rose 0.82 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.41 pct higher. The Telecoms (4.32 pct), Construction (2.98 pct) and Commerce (1.94 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Industrial Products (0.72 pct), Personal Products (0.63 pct0 and Banks (0.43 pct) suffered losses.

    Cyprus Popular Bank (8.0 pct), Eurobank (4.51 pct), OTE (4.32 pct) and Titan (4.14 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Cyprus Bank (7.59 pct), Ellaktor (3.77 pct), Viohalco (3.21 pct) and Piraeus Bank (2.51 pct) were top losers.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 69 with 44 with another 18 issues unchanged. Sato (18.75 pct), Paperpack (15.49 pct) and Vioter (15.38 pct) were top gainers, while PC Systems (20 pct), 3A (19.89 pct) and Eurobrokers (16.13 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: -0.72%

    Commercial: +1.94%

    Construction: +2.98%

    Oil & Gas: +1.57%

    Personal & Household: -0.63%

    Raw Materials: +1.56%

    Travel & Leisure: +1.00%

    Technology: +0.31%

    Telecoms: +0.31%

    Banks: -0.43%

    Food & Beverages: +0.40%

    Health: -0.15%

    Utilities: -0.20%

    Financial Services: +0.24%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, Alpha Bank and Bank of Cyprus.

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

    Alpha Bank: 1.12

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 1.73

    HBC Coca Cola: 13.55

    Hellenic Petroleum: 4.53

    National Bank of Greece: 1.26

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.65

    OPAP: 4.55

    OTE: 1.93

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.23

    Titan: 13.33

    [25] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased to 25.17 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 25.30 pct on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 26.72 pct and the German Bund 1.55 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates remained mainly unchanged. The 12-month rate stood at 1.21 pct, the six-month rate was 0.92 pct, the three-month rate 0.65 pct and the one-month rate 0.37 pct.

    [26] ADEX closing report

    The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading around its fair value in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover remaining a low 9.264 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 3,255 contracts worth 3.472 million euros, with 19,999 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 38,718 contracts worth 5.792 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (12,756), followed by National Bank (10,770), OTE (1,139), OPAP (1,282), Piraeus Bank (2,192), Cyprus Bank (7,115), Cyprus Popular Bank (1,106), Mytilineos (481), MIG (493), PPC (313) and ATEbank (192).

    [27] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.266

    Pound sterling 0.811

    Danish kroner 7.545

    Swedish kroner 8.956

    Japanese yen 100.98

    Swiss franc 1.219

    Norwegian kroner 7.635

    Canadian dollar 1.298

    Australian dollar 1.257

    General News

    [28] Attack against Microsoft with booby-trapped van

    An attack with a booby-trapped van at took place at 4 a.m. Wednesday at a Microsoft building in the north Athens suburb of Maroussi.

    Unidentified individuals used a stolen van to threaten security guards of the company at the entrance of the building and stormed into the lobby and before setting off a large number of gas canisters, which were in the van, before fleeing.

    Serious damage to the building's lobby and minor damage on the first storey were reported. Police found in the stolen van, which was totally destroyed from the explosion, remnants of the gas canisters as well as plastic bottles.

    [29] Twenty three accused of bank robberies in northern Greece

    Twenty three individuals arrested in relation to a series of recent armed bank robberies, ATM explosions, attacks on police officers, arms and drug trafficking and extortions will be led before a prosecutor in the northeast seaport city of Kavala later on Tuesday, police announced. Other seven individuals are still wanted by authorities.

    The Kavala-based ring was active across northern Greece and had stolen roughly 450,000 euros. The ring members were heavily armed and did not hesitate to open fire on police officers. Police found in their possession and seized four Kalashnikovs, 6 pistols, 6 hunting rifles, an automatic sub-machine gun, explosives, detonators and a hand grenade.

    Among those arrested are locals, as well as repatriated Greeks from former Soviet Union countries and a Serb. Three of the ring leaders, two aged 24 and a 37-year-old were also arrested. Two of the so-called "masterminds" were school buddies and had served in the Greek army's special forces.

    A Kavala lawyer was also arrested accused of providing legal assistance to the gang members and a Greek Police special guard serving in Athens who supplied the ring with bullet-proof vests and provided useful information. The Serb national supplied them with guns from his country while some of the weapons were imported from Bulgaria.

    According to the case file, the gang became active in April 2011 and its members are accused of committing five armed robberies targeting banks in the regions of Kavala, Serres, Komotini and Thessaloniki. They are also accused of breaking open 10 ATMs using explosives in the regions of Kavala, Komotini, Xanthi, Drama, Sindos and Evros.

    [30] Nine arrested in 'abductions for ransom' gang

    Nine people have been arrested have been arrested for carrying out five abductions for ransom in December last year, Athens security police said on Wednesday.

    More specifically, five Greeks, to Albanians and two Greeks from the former Soviet Union have been arrested so far in an ongoing investigation, accused of involvement in five abductions in December 2011, for which they received money and gold of high value as ransom.

    The perpetrators abducted mainly relatives of jewelry store owners, and held them captive in a former factory facility they had turned into a prison for a few days until the ransoms were paid. In one case they abducted from Nea Peramo the wife of a businessman, holding her for 25 days for 346,000 euros ransom.

    According to sources, the perpetrators received more than 400,000 euros in cash, some 350,000 euros in jewelry and 16 kilograms of gold in ransom.

    The investigation was continuing, and the Attica security police were due to announce details.

    [31] Armed robbery case solved

    Police announced on Wednesday that they have solved the case of an armed robbery last March in Argos. Three Albanian nationals -- two men aged 28 and 49 and a 24-year-old woman --were arrested while six more persons alleged to be involved in the robbery are wanted.

    According to the case file the nine suspects are charged with grand theft, attempted murder against police officers and participation in a criminal group.

    Members of the group wearing masks on March 30, 2012, broke into a jewelry shop in Argos and took 30,000 euros in jewelry. While leaving they shot at police officers that pursued them.

    Afterwards they fled with two cars. The cars were stolen from the wider Athens region and were found later abandoned.

    Police are continuing the investigation.

    Financial crimes squad finds 'unjustified' 3 million euros in deputy mayor's bank account

    The finance ministry's economic crimes squad (SDOE) has found 3 million euros in "unjustified" deposits in the bank account of a deputy mayor in Sterea (mainland) Greece, it was made known on Wednesday.

    The SDOE is conducting 'source of wealth' checks on 500 political persons, among them former MPs, mayors, etc.

    [32] Two men attempt to steal 15-ton bridge

    Two construction company workers were arrested on Wednesday for attempting to tear apart and steal a Hellenic Railway Organisation (OSE) bridge in Mikro Dassos village in Kilkis prefecture, northern Greece.

    The two suspects, aged 44 and 48, went to the spot with a crane but they were spotted and were arrested red-handed. The 17x5 metres and 15 tons bridge was used by OSE for the construction of a train track.

    A large number of similar incidents have taken place in Northern Greece where the so-called 'copper and cast iron gangs' are active. These gangs steal whatever derives from steel and copper in order to sell them. Their preferences include grills from water supply networks and sewers, PPC transformers and cables, etc.

    Only a few days ago, thieves made off with an entire iron bridge near the Greek-Bulgarian border on the Strymonas River.

    [33] Arrests on Crete in fake driver's license scam

    Thirteen individuals were arrested on Wednesday by Irakleio police on the island of Crete on charges related to the issuance of numerous fake driver's licenses.

    Eight of the suspects are motor vehicles department employees, four are driving instructors and one man allegedly took driver license written tests in the place of student drivers.

    All of the suspects will be led before a prosecutor on Thursday accused of forming a criminal ring, forgery, criminal impersonation, active and passive bribery, and multiple counts of fraud.

    [34] Drug arrests in Patras region

    Police made several arrests in relation to a drug trafficking ring active in the regions of Egialia and Kalavrita, southwestern Greece, in the last five months, it was announced on Wednesday.

    Three men and a woman were arrested in the towns of Akrata and Egio while other two individuals are still wanted.

    Among the suspects were two 32-year-old brothers who were arrested on the Patras-Athens national motorway, near Akrata, after police found 60 grams of heroin in their car. A 36-year-old man and a woman, 37, were arrested in Egio.

    A total of 175 drug transactions were made by the suspects in the past month alone.

    [35] Ecumenical Patriarch arrives in Kozani

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on Wednesday arrived in Kozani, NW Greece, within the framework of a seven-day tour of the region, and was warmly received by Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, the Metropolitan Bishops of Kozani and Kastoria, local authorities and hundreds of faithful.

    Addressing the crowd that gathered at the city's main square, the Patriarch praised the local people for being hardworking and creative and made a special reference to the noted, locally produced saffron under the brand name "Krokos Kozanis". He also stressed the environmentally friendly exploitation of the region's mineral resources.

    Referring to the crises people are faced with, he underlined that "material progress should be accompanied by spiritual progress in order to have the strength to weather any storm," adding that "Christian traditions help the Greek nation face all difficulties successfully."

    [36] Harbour police report peak in accidental drownings in 2012

    The summer had got off to a bad start with a spike in the number of accidental deaths by drowning relative to previous years, the harbour police reported on Wednesday. The majority of the victims were elderly, followed by small children and spear-gun fishermen, while the record number of deaths in one day was on June 26, with a total of four in various locations around the country.

    Figures supplied by the harbour police showed that 145 people had died of drowning since the start of 2012, with the number of deaths per year increasingly steadily since 2008. Specificially, deaths in 2008 came to 283, rising to 327 in 2009, 371 in 2010 and again 371 in 2011.

    As a result of the economic crisis, several municipalities have failed to hire life guards for public beaches in 2012, increasing the risk of drowning accidents as the tourism season peaks. There were 468 beaches with a life guard in 2011 but only 361 in 2012.

    The harbour police advised swimmers to avoid swimming after a heavy meal or in rough seas with strong currents in order to avoid accidents. They also advised the elderly and people with health problems to consult their doctor before they begin swimming in the sea so as to have their medication adjusted and to receive basic advice.

    For spear-gun fishing, the head of the harbour police stressed that they must follow certain safety rules, such as always having a buoy to indicate their presence, avoid fishing in areas frequented by ships or harbour entrances and taking care not to overestimate their stamina. He also recommended that those wishing to do underwater fishing also take scuba diving lessons.

    He also noted that the coast guard will increase patrols along busy beaches during the summer months and offer workshops on swimming safety to children.

    [37] Major Greco-Italian archaeological con'f on Lesvos

    An international conference to take place on the island of Lesvos in early July will highlight restoration works done over the last 15 years on monuments and archaeological sites on the eastern Aegean islands of Lesvos, Hios, Psara and Limnos and in the Italian regions of Calabria, Sicily and Veneto.

    The conference, entitled "Two Countries - One History. Management and Promotion of Cultural & Environmental Heritage Monuments on NE Aegean Islands (Lesvos, Limnos, Hios, Psara) - Magna Graecia (Calabria, Sicily) - Veneto & Pompey" is hosted by Greek ephorates of antiquities, the Mediterranea University of Reggio Calabria, the Aegean University, the Italian School of Archaeology in Athens, the North Aegean Region and local authorities.

    [38] Mid-period Byzantine temple brought to light at Tempi

    Archaeological excavations at Tempi, conducted by the 7th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities, and headed by Ephorate director Stavroula Sdrolia, recently brought to light medievel chapel at the Ottoman-era 'Hani tis Kokonas' (Kokona Inn) site near the historic township of Ambelakia.

    On the western and northern environs the site is surrounded by an extensive cemetery, which is one of the few finds that dates to the Mid-Byzantine period.

    Sdrolia explained to AMNA that the excavations at Tempi began in 2008, in the context of the construction of a new section of the national highway from Maliakos to Kleidi at Tempi.

    [39] Brush fire reported near houses in Ano Glyfada, Athens

    A brush fire broke out at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday in a plot of land near several houses in the Athens suburb of Ano Glyfada. The fire started that the corner of Souli and Petmeza streets and was burning through dried grasses, olive trees and rubbish. Due to its proximity with houses in the area, a force of 15 fire engines and 40 firemen was sent to put out the flames.

    [40] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The deliberations ahead of the EU Summit in Brussels, the appointment of Professor Yannis Stournaras as Finance Minister and the predictions, mostly dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The state loses 285,000 euros from the shut-down of every small shop...!".

    AVGHI: "Minister of recession and sell-off".

    AVRIANI: "Yannis Stournaras is prime minister Antonis Samaras' strong card".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Discounts and installments in taxes for the weaker".

    ESTIA: "What will happen with the taxes".

    ETHNOS: "German Chancellor Angela Merkel raises a new Berlin Wall".

    IMERISSIA: "Message to Europe for steady course".

    KATHIMERINI: "Stournaras chosen with the eyes on Europe".

    LOGOS: "One arrived...another left".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "New Finance Ministry crash test with the (EC, ECB, IMF) troika".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Communist Party (KKE): Popular rally for free medicine and Health services".

    TA NEA: "Kifissia (Athens suburb, Samaras' residence) secrets".

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