Green group charged with fraud in Greek crackdown

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 21, 2012 9:46 AM

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek prosecutors have filed fraud charges against members of an environmental group, court and police officials said on Friday, as Athens tries to show its international lenders that it is cracking down on corruption.

The charges follow an audit of the financing of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) during the debt-fuelled economic boom of the 2000s.

The group, known as "Circle of Patmos" or "Religion, Science and the Environment" organized cruises in places like the Amazon and the Arctic Circle to raise awareness of environmental issues. Those taking part in the trips were mainly Greek Orthodox bishops and some leaders of other faiths.

Fourteen officials from the group were charged with defrauding the state after audits found that up to 5 million euros in public and private donations it received were unaccounted for, court and police sources said.

A court official, who declined to be named, said part of the funding was traced to a London bank account. The group did not immediately return calls to its offices in Athens and London.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who has cut wages and raised taxes to obtain EU/IMF bailout funds, in August ordered a freeze and review of all public funding of NGOs.

(Reporting by Harry Papachristou; Editing by Janet Lawrence)