Reporter receives death threats from man self-identified as Aegean Oil magnate (UPDATES)

For those of you who haven’t been following the story, last week a man self-identified as the Greek oil-magnate Dimitris Melissanidis of Aegean Oil called from a number registered with the company and from a building the company uses, to threaten the life of journalist Lefteris Charalampopoulos after the publishing of a report that implicates the company in an oil smuggling scandal. Check here for the Greek and here for the English full text on the case.

Death threats are not uncommon against investigative reporters and it was only two years that Socratis Giolias was murdered outside his house for reason as of yet unknown. So although it’s common practise, it should never be taken lightly. This story picks my interest for an additional reason though. In their own words:

…On February 4th- UNFOLLOW magazine received a phone call and then an email from Failos Kranidiotis, attorney for Mr Melissanidis. In his email, which UNFOLLOW published on its website today, he states:

“As ordered by my client, Mr Dimitris Melissanidis, I declare the following:

After the severely defamatory article published in your issue of February 2013, you also published on your magazine’s website, on Saturday February 2nd 2013, at 22.15, an article titled ‘Threats against UNFOLLOW from man self-identified as D. Mellissanidis’.

Mr D. Melissanidis declares to you that he has never contacted any of your reporters or any of your collaborators.

You are required to publish his response on your website and to delete the offensive and defamatory comments that follow your post.

Beyond that, he reserves all legal rights.

Failos M. Kranidiotis

Attorney”

What is really interesting is that “mister” Kranidiotis, is none other than the man with which I had a very “pleasant” exchange on twitter the other night and whose statements from that conversation made it in the article I wrotefor the New Statesman today. This is the same man who is an advisor to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. And here is an interesting side to this story:Mellisanidis is a bidder for the purchase of OPAP (state lottery) which is a monopoly in Greece and a highly profitable one if I may add.
So let’s recap: The government is privatising assets, one of the richest men in Greece is bidding for a highly profitable public company, and his lawyer is an advisor to the Prime Minister. No conflict of interest here at all…

Let’s not kid ourselves, this is probably the next scandal coming out of Greece along with the oil smuggling case mentioned below. And it’s going to be a tough one to crack as we’re talking about two (Mellisanidis & Latsis) of the richest people not just in Greece, but in the world. UNFOLLOW puts it better:

On January 31st, the latest -14th- issue of UNFOLLOW magazine hit the newsstands all over Greece. Among other reports, we published one on oil smuggling in Greece – specifically the practice of oil carrier companies to buy oil at reduced-tax rates and channel it back into the market at the normal price.

We also published two reports by the 7th Piraeus Customs Authority, with detailed findings on how two major oil companies engaged in this practice. One is ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), where the principal shareholders are the Greek state and Spiros Latsis. The other is Aegean Oil, which is run by Dimitris Melissanidis – albeit without an official position, though his brother, Iakovos, holds a post on the board. Finally, in our report we pointed out that although Aegean Oil officials have been charged with smuggling and forgery, their trial has been postponed four times already, while the state attorneys were absent on all four occasions.

Aegean Oil is truly colossal. Among other things, it supplies the American navy, and one of its associated companies trades in the New York stock exchange. A new trial regarding the smuggling and forgery charges is set for February 12th. Media attention in Greece has been, unsurprisingly, non-existent.

ELPE is set to be fully privatized soon, according to the privatization program imposed on Greece by the troika. The front-runner to acquire state owned shares is Spiros Latsis. At the same time, Dimitris Melissanidis is poised to buy the also soon to be privatized OPAP, the state company that holds a monopoly on gambling.

Now we’re all waiting for mr.Kranidiotis to prove who it was who called under his clients nose, while also finding evidence to back some other claims he made on an unrelated case. The mainstream Greek media have yet to pick up on this story, for some we know the reasons, for others… Not really. I expected more mobilisation from journalists. There is now a great divide between those working inside and those working outside the mainstream (TV & Radio mainly). This will not play out well in these  times when society is divided to a fault and the government cherishes the fact.

As the power structures that run Greece for the past decades now unfold, we will see more incidents like this one. And we need journalists to feel safe enough as to investigate and publish their findings, if we’re ever going to get out of this mess. Now go out and share this please.