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Smoking ban in Greece: Thessaloniki breaks with 3rd world practices

Resisting all prevailing ignorance, one mayor will uphold the law an entire country refuses to enforce

  • The Mayor of Thessaloniki is determined to break away from the 3rd world reputation his country earned itself. Mr. Boutaris finally said that, his city will enforce the longstanding smoking ban which the entire country ignored shamelessly until now.
  • European taxpayers feel cheated that they had to bail out Greece – only to arrive in the country as visitors and experience the total social exclusion of non-smokers in public venues, also violating human right laws. 
  • Greece lured in China for investment, but quickly changed it’s tune, leaving China at the mercy of archeological groups freezing the 2nd part of investment in Piraeus. The Chinese government are effectively held hostage by Greece. However Greece is now isolated since European and American property investors see it is a 3rd world destination due to smoking in public places, along with poorly administered and corrupt practices in the property market. 

Yiannis Boutaris achieved a lot for Thessaloniki as he connected the city to important air routes, including to Israel and Turkey – a much needed move to resurrect it from a severely declining population. Investors from Israel and Turkey have started to buy up properties in his city, a thriving Airbnb culture started – and restaurants are now a booming business again. However, visitors, in particular from Israel and Europe, were rather disgusted to learn that non-smokers face social exclusion in Greece, backed by a very ignorant attitude towards glaringly obvious health facts.

Boutaris is betting against all odds as those higher up, have zero commitment and a poor, corrupted attitude towards health:

To illustrate the extent of the ignorance – Pavlos Polakis, the so-called “minister for health” appointed by the Tsipras government, sets the example, showing that the structure in Greece is rotten from the top down: It is claimed that he smoked publicly at an international event against cancer, in total disrespect of other EU ministers who attended. Surprisingly, Polakis is actually a medical doctor – albeit in a country where they smoke in hospitals and police stations. The mere fact that Alexis Tsipras did not fire him over this embarrassing act, shows how little regard Greece has for it’s commitment to creditor EU nations who acted in good faith. As on local Doctor in Athens said: “In what world, would any civilized country tolerate such poor behavior from a health minister?”

Boutaris may be the only upright man in his country, stepping forward to do something about this – and honoring the commitments Greece made at a European level. Alexis Tsipras does not seem to care about health related issues, especially smoking. Neither was Tsipras able to clamp down on corruption in any way. However the problems Boutaris aims to resolve, are just the tip of the iceberg in Greece, which is the least European country in the EU:

Other major issues in Greece:

The Greek government of Alexis Tsipras failed to reduce corruption. In fact, many argue that it empowers and props up corrupt structures which can facilitate more votes – since clamping down on a culture of corruption may be unpopular. This is now preventing the residential property market from recovering, with foreigners shying away. Such is the seriousness of mafia culture in regions like the Ionian Islands (Corfu), that foreign investors are declining investment opportunities outright out of fear they will fall victim to extortion by colluding lawyers, notaries and civil engineers who do the bidding for corrupt individuals in powerful positions.

Regardless of how friendly and kind Greeks may be, they all suffer under a system that is plagued with corruption, extortion and government structures that continue to enable this culture, as we will explain below. Shockingly, these white collar crimes are carried out by individuals who are highly educated, from so-called prominent families who often worked in the same profession for generations.

Extortion of foreigners:

In one instance, a property owner wanted to apply simple energy insulation to the walls of his home, totally unrelated to what lies underneath the surface of the soil. A gentleman (civil engineer) who works both for the government and who does private jobs on the side, were introduced to the property owner by the construction company. The engineer who initially quoted 1000 Euros, later said: “We have to pay the women from the archeological society something to give you the OK. I will handle it – and in total, the cost will be 2500 Euros”. This is for a simple permit that typically costs 650 Euros across Greece. More alarming, was that the biggest civil engineering company in Corfu, colluded on price by also quoting the property owner 2500 Euros for the same license application. There are clear trails of price fixing among a small circle of established firms on the island. (There are even cases where people were stopped from fixing leaking roofs – as if their roof tiles were of archeological significance)

See the letter from a colluding engineer

When confronted over the excessive charge, the engineer sought to draw in the Archeological society: 

Text version:

Just to make things clear.

In order to complete your building permit I have to :

 

Measure the whole house

 

Make the proper drawings (floor plans, 2 sections, all 4 facades and another drawing showing all the different levels of your property wichbin your case are lots of them).

 

If Mr X the engineer who made your legalisation gives me the land survey of your property in autocad format it’s OK, otherwise I have to make a topographic from the beginning.

 

I have to cross check the whole legalisation in order to confirm it for the building permit.

 

I have to deal with the archaeology department of corfu wich means I have to convince an old and wicked woman to let us get the permit and bring her on site to check for herself that everything is according to plan.

 

After the archaeology approval I have to make the whole file from the beginning according to the archaeology demands and then give it to the architecture committee for a second approval. Both of the approvals are 5 days lost for me without the preparation.

 

After the approval of the architectural committee we apply for the building permit.

 

And no I can’t use the old drawings from the legalisation.

 

I think that 2500 euro is a fair price and it is a price that I charge my clients. Greeks Zambians English or Americans.

 

 

My best regards

 

S

 

Extortion of locals:

Greeks themselves are not completely exempt from this endemic corruption and extortion, although foreigners would often feel singled out. In another instance, a local restaurant owner wanted to add a swimming pool to his facilities. A representative of the Corfu archeological society showed up, picked up a piece of building rubble and said “this could be an ancient pot – we will have to talk about this”. Later on insisting that a figure of 5000 Euros will make the issue disappear. Greeks feel that the system is rigged to benefit a few well-connected families who seek to run a monopoly on property speculation, with excessive, invisible cost barriers barring anyone else from upgrading a property – as is the case with mafia cultures.

How corruption is inherent, systemic and cultural in the Ionian islands:

One civil engineer said: “I face competition from people who work in the government. They decline my projects – and then approach the building owners themselves by offering to accept proposals for cash. Effectively, I am the one introducing clients to them since all my clients go missing into this corrupt system. By allowing this and not cleaning out the system, the government in Athens enable this systemic corruption to persist”.

Extortion by a property lawyer and notary who colluded:

In another case, a so-called “3rd generation family lawyer” in Corfu, colluded with a notary to extort a property buyer. After the buyer paid his 10% deposit in good faith, he was on his way to sign the final deed at the notary office. Upon arrival he was informed that an additional tax liability was found for which the seller was liable, however the buyer was presented with a choice: Either pay the 8000Euros tax on behalf of the seller, or wait several more months to see if it can be resolved. The pair effectively held the buyer hostage as the crooked lawyer/notary team changed tactics overnight. Operating as a nifty team, the lawyer and notary insisted that they did nothing wrong and their actions were not tantamount to extortion. The lawyer reminded the buyer that he is pretty much above the law and in Greece it is normal for lawyers to act in whichever way they see fit. The lawyer insisted that all his fees be paid in cash and refused to give any receipts for services rendered. When the client complained for the way in which he was treated, the lawyer said: “You can simply leave my office if you don’t like it, I will not refund a penny of your money”.

Carbon monoxide deaths were not enough to convince the police and fire brigade of health risks:

In another instance, the fire brigade measured toxic air from a heating system and insisted that the police be called. The police acted and asked the property owner to inform them if this happens again. Later on, both the fire brigade and police hung up when the resident (foreigner) called them to report continuation of the event. It turns out that the building belongs to a lawyer in Corfu. Corfu island is the only place in Europe where carbon monoxide deaths caused holiday operators to compensate families with millions of Euros due to resulting deaths of family members. Yet so strong is the mafia culture and ignorance, that not even these deaths were sufficient to change attitudes. In Corfu – the fire brigade simply hang up when they receive a call from an English person, notwithstanding these tragedies of the past.

Greek ministers meeting their Chinese overlords in Beijing

Property price statistics in Greece:

The country overall is experiencing a free fall in property prices. Athens is an exception, where many foreigners invested in apartments. This helped to turn the tide in Athens alone – however this may get derailed by communist and socialist extremists who want to ban Airbnb and Booking.com in an attempt to further drive down rental prices. It is felt that property owners should bare the brunt for the recession – and carry tenants on their back by being hostage to a declining population and a market that is closed for alternative lettings.

  • After procuring loan money from the EU, Greece agreed to reduce toxic debts from it’s bank. The Ionian mafia was again leading the effort to cheat the Europeans: a “powerful” notary association simply refused to authorise the sale of distress property, allowing defaulting owners to effectively squat those properties instead of proceeding with auctions.
  • China thought it could trust Greece by investing in it’s port. Greece even started to veto key EU decisions on China, so the Chinese took a leap of faith and invested billions, which was a lifeline to China. Now, after COSCO invested and are due to put up capital for the 2nd round of promised investments, this phase is blocked. The Greek government seemingly think it can hold COSCO hostage. If the government tactics are similar to that of local law firms in the Ionian region, it is simply evident that Greece is not a reliable investment destination to anyone: not westerners who risk it on the local property market, neither Chinese investors risking it on commercial property.
  • Greece defied the European Union and all of the developed world after signing up to the smoking ban. It is near impossible to find smoke free restaurants, as non-smokers face social exclusion. This begs the question: Who would really want to buy a dream home in Greece, if social exclusion and an outright abuse of human rights is at the order of the day?
  • Recently, the EU warned Athens against it’s persistent blind eye to the abhorrent situation with the non-removal of rubbish on the Island of Corfu. Several options are available to move refuse to nearby mainland facilities, but the local government mainly refuses to collect refuse frequently. When it does, it makes use of “landfill” facilities which are almost guaranteed to render the island useless for long-term agricultural use.

Final scoop on Greek property:

There is a reason for everything in the world, including the fact that Greece is the only EU country that remained in recession for more than 10 years. Corruption and extortion is at the order of the day. If neither China nor Europeans and Americans can trust Greece when investing money in the countries ailing infrastructure, then who can really trust this country? This article used the factual example of what is happening in Corfu right now, albeit that other areas such as Mykonos, Crete and Santorini are not without problems either. Either the EU commission is seemingly unaware of the mafia racketeers who run construction and property law in the Ionian islands through price fixing, collusion and extortion – or it is simply turning a blind eye at this point in time. One thing is certain: investors will be first to find out – and turn their backs on this impostor of a “European” country.

Greek government officials seeking details about these incidents can contact Newstrail here. 

 

Rita Monteiro

Rita – After graduating from NYU with a master degree in history, She was also a columnist for many local newspapers. Rita mostly covers business and Technology topics, but at times loves to write about reviews as well.
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