Greek finance minister backs bank bailout fund chief over probe

by Reuters
Friday, 10 January 2014 16:36 GMT

ATHENS, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Greece's finance minister on Friday publicly backed the country's bank bailout fund chief executive who has been charged in connection with bad loans issued by defunct state lender Hellenic Postbank.

An opposition party, the right-wing Independent Greeks party, had demanded Anastasia Sakellariou - a former executive at the bank - resign after court officials said prosecutors charged her and 24 others this week over loans issued by the state lender from 2008 to 2012.

"I fully trust and respect Greece's justice system, but I also fully trust Mrs Sakellariou, her integrity, her professional expertise and above all, her work so far," Yannis Stournaras told reporters on Friday.

Sakellariou was charged with breach of trust, court officials said.

The Hellenic Financial Stability Fund - the bank bailout fund - said in a statement that, in 2012, Sakellariou was a member of a Hellenic Postbank committee that handled the restructuring of two loans that are now under investigation by prosecutors.

"The committees conducted these restructurings in line with common banking practice," HFSF said. Sakellariou has yet to make any direct comment on the accusations.

Sakellariou was appointed CEO of the HFSF in January 2013 and previously worked as chief risk officer at Hellenic Postbank, also known as TT, which was wound down last year with its healthy assets sold to Greek lender Eurobank.

A prosecutor's report showed the bank had losses of about 347 million euros due to the bad loans, court officials said on Friday. Seven arrest warrants have been issued against businessmen and former TT officials and police arrested three of them this week

The HFSF was set up in 2010 to recapitalise Greece's four big banks and cover the costs of winding down non-viable lenders as part of an effort to revive the battered banking sector. The fund pumped about 4.5 billion euros into Hellenic Postbank to wind down the lender.

Greek prosecutors have stepped up corruption investigations amid rising public anger against a wealthy elite partly blamed for the financial crisis. (Reporting by Renee Maltezou and Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Alison Williams)

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