ATHENS (Reuters) - The former head of ailing Greek lender ATEbank AGBr.AT, which authorities deemed non-viable and split into good and bad parts, admitted to sending millions of euros of personal savings abroad but said the transfer did not violate any laws.
Theodore Pantalakis, former chief executive of ATEbank, told Sunday’s Realnews paper the money was sent abroad to buy assets.
The country’s central bank chief raised eyebrows at a parliamentary briefing on Friday, saying the monetary authority had given details of a high-level ATEbank official’s money transfers abroad to the tax authorities.
“It is 8 million euros, mine and my family‘s. It is legal, reported and taxed and part of the family’s wealth, the level of which justifies (the transfer),” Pantalakis told the paper.
Fears that Greece may ditch the euro have led to waves of deposit outflows from the banking system since the country’s debt crisis erupted, adding to liquidity strains at banks.
“The account’s movements prove that the (money) was transferred in installments and the purpose of the transaction was to acquire an asset abroad,” the banker told the paper.
Pantalakis stepped down from ATEbank after its healthy assets were taken over by Piraeus Bank (BOPr.AT), the country’s fourth-largest lender, last month in a move that sparked expectations of further consolidation in the struggling sector.
He had been in favor of forming a strong, state-controlled pillar by merging ATEbank with other lenders.
Greece’s central bank chief George Provopoulos has defended the government’s decision to transfer ATEbank’s healthy assets to Piraeus as the best solution on the table to avoid job losses and safeguard stability in the banking sector.
On Friday, he told the parliamentary briefing that recapitalizing a non-viable bank was not an option under Greece’s EU/IMF bailout package and that the lender’s collapse had to be avoided.
The deal has come under fire from ATEbank’s union, which has announced rolling strikes, while leftist opposition party Syriza has called it the “Great Robbery”.
Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Dale Hudson