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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-01-03

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Friday, 3 January 2014 Issue No: 4551

CONTENTS

  • [01] Prime Miniser Antonis Samaras' interview with Austria's Kurier newspaper
  • [02] FM Venizelos: 'Greece's success is a success for Europe and the eurozone'
  • [03] Government Vice-President Venizelos' interview to Euronews
  • [04] FinMin holds meeting with PASOK official ahead of troika visit
  • [05] SYRIZA's leader Alexis Tsipras: South European debts should be partially cancelled
  • [06] Communist Party of Greece: EU does not have interest of its peoples in mind
  • [07] Health ministry to impose a 1 euro charge per presciption in the coming days
  • [08] Athens Medical Association against new hospital admission charge
  • [09] KKE party on admission fee to hospitals
  • [10] Golden Dawn's reaction to 25-euro admission fee at hospitals
  • [11] Public order ministry document on the problem of illegal brothels forwarded to parliament
  • [12] Greece says EU funds' absorption rate surpassed targets in 2013
  • [13] Greek PMI rose to 49.6 points in December
  • [14] Greek wind energy market on the rise
  • [15] Turnover at Christmas period down 10 percent
  • [16] Overdue tax debt rose to 61.4 bln euros in November
  • [17] Military canteens run by private companies to help economy, Defence ministry says
  • [18] Piraeus Port Authority keeps 2014 port dues stable
  • [19] Karelia tobacco company distributes one-time benefits to employees after record sales
  • [20] National Bank completes sale of Pangaea
  • [21] Eurobank Properties acquires Cloud Hellas
  • [22] Brokerage houses' ranking for 2013
  • [23] AB Vasilopoulos continues expansion programme
  • [24] Greek stocks end first session of 2014 with strong gains
  • [25] Greek bond market closing report
  • [26] ADEX closing report
  • [27] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [28] German company executives implicated in defence kickbacks case
  • [29] Professional from Kavala the lucky winner of New Year's state lottery
  • [30] Transportation of 85 illegal immigrants to Astypalea island completed
  • [31] Police uncovers theft ring targeting elderly persons
  • [32] Fresh snow in Greece's ski resorts
  • [33] Cloudy on Friday
  • [34] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Prime Miniser Antonis Samaras' interview with Austria's Kurier newspaper

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA / D. Dimitrakoudis)

    "Our biggest concern is to ensure that there will be economic growth, economic recovery and new job positions and this also constitutes an EU priority," Prime Minister Antonis Samaras underlined in an interview published in the large-circulation Austrian newspaper Kurier.

    Samaras referred to the priorities of the Greek EU Presidency, unemployment and migration, the results achieved by the government in the economic sector and the existence of a neo-Nazi party in Greece saying that it is a "shame".

    The newspaper mentioned in the interview introduction that this is "one of the rare interviews by the Greek prime minister", noting that he governs Greece since 2012 displaying determination. It underlined that he has succeeded in implementing deep reforms and tough austerity programmes to ensure that Greece will move out of a precarious position such as was the case in 2010 and 2011 when no one knew if the country would go bankrupt and leave the eurozone.

    Referring to the priorities of the Greek EU Presidency, the prime minister underlined that the EU agenda will have to be promoted, including the implementation of the banking union.

    Samaras noted that unemployment is the biggest problem for Greece, at 27 pct, while youth unemployment has risen to 60 pct, adding that another equally important issue is migration.

    Referring to youth unemployment, he said that an entire generation is being affected, underlining that startup companies in the sector of high technology are being subsidized in order to deal with the problem. He said that international companies have been expressing interest in the younger generation's inventions while similar things are happening in the sector of tourism as well. He also noted that a new investment law is "rolling out the red carpet for new investors".

    On the issue of illegal migration, the prime minister said that the number of the unemployed in Greece is very high, as is the number of illegal migrants, and the combination of both can create an explosive mixture that could threaten social cohesion, which in turn would intensify political problems, all of which would destabilize the country; such a development has to be prevented, he underlined.

    Samaras backed a common EU policy on migration, which is also what European citizens want and added that reacting after the event to a refugee tragedy, like the one in Lampedusa, is not enough, but action should be taken to prevent such tragedies from happening.

    Referring to a recent incident, when a boat with Afghan refugees ran aground in the Peloponnese, southern Greece, he said that these people paid thousands of US dollars and that somebody made huge profits. "This mafia, these mobsters" make huge profits to the detriment of poor people, he said "and if they are not captured, these human traffickers will continue doing their job".

    Responding to a question on the "prescription" he used that contributed to the "successes, the 2013 budget deficit reduction, the small primary surplus achieved and the anticipated economic growth in 2014 that have made Greece more stable under his government," the prime minister said that the budget deficit reduction and the economic reform are the most important.

    The prime minister said that after six years of recession, of rising unemployment and big sacrifices by the people, revenues exceeded expenditures in 2013. He also said that during the economic crisis economic performance was down 25 pct, tax revenues dropped and people lost 38 pct of their income, noting that when someone achieves primary surplus under such circumstances it means that he has done his best.

    He said that he did what he had to do and implemented structural reforms, noting the important role played by Johannes Hahn (the Austrian European Commissioner for Regional Policy) considering that the EU infrastructure funds are of vital importance for Greece.

    [02] FM Venizelos: 'Greece's success is a success for Europe and the eurozone'

    Greece's success will be shared by Europe and the eurozone as their success as well, government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos told German television station ZDF in an interview released Thursday, adding that the Greek crisis did not mean financial loss for European citizens.

    "The success of the Greek programme will be a success for all of Europe and for the eurozone," Venizelos said, adding, "Our message is that no European citizen lost a single euro from the Greek crisis - loans and guarantees were provided and they are being serviced regularly."

    Almost all of Greece's prior presidencies, including the present one, occurred during large waves of EU expansion, the FM said, "that is why we are focused on the future of European integration, and on seeking an answer that will cover all of Europe - North and South."

    Speaking about the Greek crisis, he noted that in 2009 Greece had a primary deficit of 12 percentage points on the GDP, and today it has a primary surplus. Therefore, "we expect that in 2014 we will have a positive rate of growth, so that we may be able to repair the injustices carried out during the phase of rapid adjustment on sensitive segments of Greek society."

    [03] Government Vice-President Venizelos' interview to Euronews

    The assumption of the EU presidency is a great opportunity for Greece to show that it is an equal and sovereign EU member state, which chairs the Council on behalf of all EU-28 member states, government Vice-President and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos said in an interview to Euronews on Wednesday.

    "We need a new image, more attractive to European citizens, more optimistic and more secure for households and particularly for the younger generation, which thinks that in many countries Europe is the equivalent of austerity policies, unemployment, reduced incomes," he said while stressing the need to talk again about Europe's culture, history, democracy, rule of law, European welfare state, development and innovation.

    Venizelos underlined that Greece is struggling to exit the crisis and the memorandum, adding that it has the largest fiscal adjustment ever made in the history of Western economies.

    Regarding growth and unemployment, which are high on the agenda of the Greek EU Presidency, government vice-president said that "we want to work with the European Commission, which is always the key body for Europe, and the European Investment Bank, in order to give the boost that all countries need and not only countries that are in crisis and adjustment programmes or run the risk of being included in adjustment programmes."

    "All Europe, all EU needs a new model of production, growth and competitiveness to flee from the danger of recession or from an intermediate, moderate state that is close to zero growth," Venizelos stated.

    [04] FinMin holds meeting with PASOK official ahead of troika visit

    Issues pending in light of the next visit by Greece's troika of lenders - such as the 2014-2017 Midterm Fiscal Strategy Framework - were discussed in a meeting between Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and Filippos Sachinidis, rapporteur of PASOK party's parliamentary labour economy sector, according to an announcement by PASOK.

    Moreover, Sachinidis was informed by Stournaras that he intends to table on the sale of bank shares held by the Financial Stability Fund which he, the minister, will bring it to the attention of the parties supporting the government before its tabling in Parliament.

    Deputy Finance Minister Christos Staikouras also attended the meeting.

    [05] SYRIZA's leader Alexis Tsipras: South European debts should be partially cancelled

    Part of the debt of South European countries must be cancelled and the rest restructured and used for growth and job creation, main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras told the special Sunday edition of French newspaper Humanite, released Thursday.

    "The first challenge for 2014 is to reverse the policy of austerity. We must plan an exit from the crisis that benefits society and the people. Therefore, part of the debt Southern European countries hold must be cancelled and the rest restructured and used to fund policies of growth that create work and stable jobs, rather than insecurity," Tsipras said.

    The SYRIZA leader said his candidacy for European Commission president is a means to support his party's positions. "We are the only ones expressing an alternative option to neoliberalism...Although we are an outsider in this battle, we have a (major) advantage - our competitors are supporters of a system that has failed, they are the powers that belong to a system that can no longer win the people's trust," he was quoted as saying.

    "Divisions (in Europe) are not geographical but political. Our great challenge is to persuade the countries and peoples of the North that their real interests lie not in continuing the policies imposed today which include the systematic resort to new loans. There is a foul cycle: austerity-recession-debts-loans. We want to break this," he said.

    According to the SYRIZA press office, the interview took place in Madrid on December 15, 2013, on the sidelines of the European Left Party's congress, where Tsipras was named a candidate for the presidency of the European Commission.

    [06] Communist Party of Greece: EU does not have interest of its peoples in mind

    The government's priorities for the Greek EU presidency are not related to meeting modern popular needs because these (priorities) cannot coexist with the defence of monopoly interests that the European Union serves, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said on Thursday.

    In a statement on Greece's assumption of the presidency of the European Council on January 1, the party said, "The goals of the Greek government and any government within the EU coincide with the EU's antipopular aims, which as of January 1, 2014 has begin the permanent oversight of its member-states with long-term (bailout) memorandums to the detriment of their peoples," the party said, and urged the peoples of EU states to break free of the Union.

    [07] Health ministry to impose a 1 euro charge per presciption in the coming days

    The Health ministry is expected to issue in the coming days a circular that will foresee 1 euro charge per prescription paid to pharmacists, Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis said in an interview to private TV MEGA on Thursday.

    [08] Athens Medical Association against new hospital admission charge

    The Athens Medical Association (ISA) on Thursday expressed strong opposition to the introduction as of January 1 of a 25-euro hospital admission charge, pointing out that the majority of patients who are unable to pay the fee are forced to avoid hospitalisation.

    According to a circular forwarded to public hospital administration boards, as of January 1, 2014 all patients will have to pay a 25-euro charge to be admitted to a National Health System (ESY) hospital.

    National Organisation for the Provision of Healthcare Services (EOPYY) beneficiaries will also have to pay a 1-euro charge per prescription to pharmacists as of January 1.

    [09] KKE party on admission fee to hospitals

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) in an announcement on Thursday criticised the measure regarding co-pays for hospitalisation and for medication prescriptions introduced as of January 1.

    "In the new year the government is introducing new taxes for the health of the people with the 25 euros for patients' admission to state hospitals, turning them into businesses, and with the additional 1 euro for every prescription in the already very expensive pharmaceutical treatment of patients and the right to medical and pharmaceutical care is becoming all the more a more expensive commodity," the party charged.

    KKE added that "the exemption of certain categories of patients, from the new taxes that the government is calling for, not only does not revoke the commercialisation of health, but on the contrary confirms it".

    [10] Golden Dawn's reaction to 25-euro admission fee at hospitals

    Extreme-right party Golden Dawn strongly condemned on Thursday the government's policy to impose a 25 euro admission fee at state hospitals as of today.

    "Are you Greek and you need care? 25 euros not to die helpless in the street", is the title of Golden Dawn's statement. "The Samara junta is forcing Greeks to pay 25 euros for not dying helpless in the street, while at the same time it gives hundreds of millions to contractors and TV channel owners," it added.

    [11] Public order ministry document on the problem of illegal brothels forwarded to parliament

    The ministry of public order and citizen protection forwarded a document to parliament with evidence concerning the operation of illegal brothels in downtown Athens in response to a relevant question tabled by opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) MPs, it was announced on Thursday.

    According to the document signed by minister Nikos Dendias, inspections in 10 houses of prostitution in the two-month period of October-November 2013 resulted to charges being filed for 100 violations, while 59 people were arrested.

    Every possible effort is being made for improved and effective policing, while systematic inspections are being conducted to ensure that the law is being observed, the ministry document underlined, adding that efforts also focus on combating human trafficking.

    SYRIZA MPs Maria Kanellopoulou, Nikos Voutsis and Dimitris Tsoukalas had noted that a large number of illegal brothels operate in the downtown district near Victoria Square, adding that an increase in various criminal activities is also being recorded in the area including, drug trafficking and illegal casinos.

    They also cited an official document by the City of Athens, noting that none of the brothels operating near Victoria Square has a license and that municipal authority decisions shutting them down are being ignored by their owners.

    A similar question was tabled recently by New Democracy (ND) MP Fotini Pipili as well.

    Financial News

    [12] Greece says EU funds' absorption rate surpassed targets in 2013

    Greece more than covered its targets for absorbing community funds in 2013, reaching 118 pct of the target set by a memorandum signed with the country's creditors, with another 5.8 billion euros remaining to be absorbed in the 2014-2015 period, Development and Competitiveness Minister Costis Hatzidakis said on Thursday.

    Presenting a report for the National Strategic Framework and the Public Investments Programe for 2013, Hatzidakis noted: "The results is a proof of what Greeks can achieve with systematic work. We can overcome expectations and dismiss myths circulating for our country abroad".

    Absorption of community funds totaled 4.6 billion euros last year, from a memorandum target of 3.89 billion euros, while total public spending -including national participation- surpassed 5.0 billion euros for an absorption rate of 74 pct.

    Hatzidakis stressed that total public spending surpassed 2012 spending by 47 pct to 5.007 billion euros, from 3.414 billion in 2012. Total spending was 16.5 billion euros, with spending in the last 18 months totaling the spending of the previous three-and-a-half years.

    The minister said absorption of community funds will intensify in 2014 while the country was awaiting the beginning of capital inflows from a new EU package.

    Hatzidakis said that a Public Investments Program spent all its money in 2013, distributing around 6.650 billion euros to the market, up from 6.113 billion in 2012.

    [13] Greek PMI rose to 49.6 points in December

    Greece's Purchasing Manager's Index (PMI) showed further encouraging signs in the last month of 2013, with production rising for the second consecutive month following an increase in new orders, a report by Markit said on Thursday.

    The PMI index, measuring business activity in the manufacturing sector, rose to 49.6 points in December -the highest level in four years- from 49.2 points in November.

    "The survey offered evidence that an upward phase of the business cycle has probably began, as both production and new orders' levels are rising simultaneously, alhtough at a small rate, for the first time since August 2009," Phil Smith, a Markit economist said commenting on the Greek results. He added that "a further continuation of new orders was necessary if we were to talk about a fundamental recovery".

    The employment and inventories indexes continued falling, although the growth rate of the manufacturing production in December was faster compared with November. The increase focused on the production of consumer goods, while production of intermediate and capital goods shrank further and incoming new orders grew in December, mainly from the domestic market, as new export orders fell again. Employment in the manufacturing sector shrank furhter in December, while pending works fell afresh.

    The PMI measures business activity in the manufacturing sector. Readings above 50 indicate a growing sector, while readings below 50 a shrinking sector.

    [14] Greek wind energy market on the rise

    Greece's wind energy sector showed signs of investment recovery during the second half of 2013, despite the adverse conditions, the Hellenic Wind Energy Association (ELETAEN) said on Thursday.

    At regional level , central Greece remains on top of wind installations, it said.

    Total net wind power installed between June-December 2013 was 71,15 MW, nearly twice the power of the previous six-month period (44,05 MW) and seven times the strength of the corresponding period of 2012 (10,35 MW). This means wind energy market grew 7.93 percent in the last half of 2013, while annual growth was 7.05 percent. Total wind power was estimated at 1864,6 MW at the end of 2013 .

    [15] Turnover at Christmas period down 10 percent

    Greek companies' turnover during the Christmas period was reduced by 10 percent at 6.8 billion euros this year compared to the equivalent period last year, the president of the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce Vassilis Korkidis said in an article on Thursday.

    "Compared to the reduction in consumers' income by at least 32 percent, we are content," he commented.

    [16] Overdue tax debt rose to 61.4 bln euros in November

    The value of overdue tax debt to the state totaled 61.4 billion euros in November 2013, with 1.0 billion euros in new overdue debt added in the month, a report by the Finance ministry said on Thursday.

    The report said that tax agencies have collected around 2.8 billion euros in overdue tax debt in the January-November period.

    [17] Military canteens run by private companies to help economy, Defence ministry says

    Some military canteens will be run by private companies so as to create new jobs and help the economy, Defence ministry said in announcement on Thursday.

    "At the same time, it will help soldiers focus on their official duties," the ministry added.

    [18] Piraeus Port Authority keeps 2014 port dues stable

    Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) will keep stable the harbour dues for a fifth year in an effort to support the shipping industry, according to an announcement on Thursday.

    "Shipping contributes to the development of tourism," OLP's chairman George Anomeritis said.

    OLP is organising on Friday at 11 am, a special ceremony for the arrival of the first cruiseship of the new year "Costa Deliziosa" with 2,890 passengers.

    [19] Karelia tobacco company distributes one-time benefits to employees after record sales

    Karelia SA tobacco company increased its sales by 8 percent in 2013, selling a record 16.8 billion cigarettes, most of them abroad, CEO Andreas Karelias told staff at the annual event for New Year's.

    "For the first time in our history, we sold a record 16.8 billion cigarettes in Greece and abroad," he said, noting that "our sales abroad were a record 14.5 billion cigarettes".

    During 2013 the company invested 3 million euros to expand production and strengthen exports; it plans to invest an additional 1.9 million euros early in 2014. It also increased the number of jobs by nearly 8 percent, he said.

    In addition to 400 million euros paid by the company in direct and indirect taxes and 7.1 million euros paid in social insurance contributions, Karelia SA contributed 170 million euros in foreign currency to the Greek economy from sales abroad. Karelias also said that the company made one-time benefit payments to staff totaling 2.5 million euros after taxes and social insurance contributions.

    The benefits announced include a 200-euro benefit to buy a turkey for the holidays; a 800-euro benefit for those who did not miss a day of work; a 1,400-euro benefit for employees with children studying at universities or technological educational institutes; and 525 euros for employees whose children were admitted to higher education institutes in 2012, while those admitted to higher education institutes in 2013 will receive Apple computers.

    Employees with monthly salaries of more than 2,001 euros will receive a 750-euro one-time benefit, while benefits of 800 euros, 1,570 euros, 1,600 euros, 2,550 euros and 2,600 euros will be received by employees with salaries of 1,701-2,000 euros, 1,401-1,700 euros, 1,201-1,400 euros, 1,001-1,200 euros and under 1,000 euros respectively.

    Employees with more than 3 children and monthly salaries of 1,201-1,700 euros will receive an additional 750 euros, while employees with more than 2 children and monthly salaries under 1,200 euros will receive 450 euros for each underage child.

    [20] National Bank completes sale of Pangaea

    National Bank on Thursday announced the completion of the sale and transfer of its 66 pct equity stake in National Pangaea Real Estate Management.

    In a statement, National Bank said the sale was servicing National Bank's strategy while it also boosted its capital base. The bank said its capital adequacy rate was boosted by around 40 basis points due to the transaction.

    [21] Eurobank Properties acquires Cloud Hellas

    Eurobank Properties on Thursday announced the completion of the acquisition of Cloud Hellas Ktimatiki SA for one euro. Under the terms of the purchase agreement, Eurobank Properties will finance a share capital increase worth 50 million euros by Cloud Hellas SA. The company owns a portfolio of four central retail shops in Athens and Thessaloniki, leased mainly to Praktiker Hellas and Carrefour-Marinopoulos and McDonalds, worth 6.45 million euros annually.

    [22] Brokerage houses' ranking for 2013

    Eurobank Equities ranked first among brokerage houses with regard to Greek stock trading in 2013 in terms of market share.

    Eurobank Equities' market share was 15.58 pct, followed by Euroxx Securities (11.65 pct), Piraeus Securities (9.80 pct), Alpha Finance (5.96 pct), Investment Bank of Greece (5.74 pct), Axia Ventures Group (4.56 pct), Pantelakis Securities (4.13 pct), UBS (3.26 pct) and BETA Securities (2.48 pct).

    Eurobank Equities positioned on the top of the list regarding stock trading in terms of market share for December 2013 with 15.67 pct market share, followed by Euroxx Securities (13.29 pct), NBG Securities (10.12 pct), Piraeus Securities (9.51 pct) and Alpha Finance (7.38 pct).

    [23] AB Vasilopoulos continues expansion programme

    AB Vasilopoulos on Thursday announced its was continuing its investment activity with the purchase of two supermarket units from "Extra Prota & Fthina SA". The two shops were located in Athens operating under the brandname Extra.

    The company said the two shops will begin operating in the first two months of 2014, employing all their previous workforce.

    [24] Greek stocks end first session of 2014 with strong gains

    Greek stocks ended the first trading session of 2014 with strong gains, ignoring a negative climate prevailing in other European markets, pushing the composite index of the market above the psychologically-critical level of 1,200 points. The index rose 3.64 pct to end at 1,204.96 points, near its day's highs of 1,209.79 points. Turnover, however, fell to 57.12 million euros.

    The Large Cap index jumped 3.48 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 2.74 pct higher. All blue chip stocks ended higher, led by National Bank (7.01 pct), Terna Energy (6.79 pct) and Mytilineos (6.69 pct). All sectors moved higher with Media (9.57 pct), Chemicals (7.20 pct), Insurance (5.60 pct) and Raw Materials (5.14 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 118 to 19, with another 11 issues unchanged. Cyclon Hellas (20.98 pct), Medicon (19.95 pct) and Pasal (19.70 pct) were top gainers, while Forthnet (18.52 pct), Kyriakoulis (18.08 pct) and G.E.Demetriou (9.38 pct) suffered losses.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: +4.86%

    Commercial: +4.69%

    Real Estate: +3.87%

    Construction: +2.34%

    Oil: +3.14%

    Chemicals: +7.20%

    Media: +9.57%

    Personal & Household: +3.36%

    Raw Materials: +5.14%

    Travel & Leisure: +2.27%

    Technology: +3.13%

    Telecoms: +4.45%

    Banks: +3.86%

    Insurance: +5.60%

    Food & Beverages: +2.69%

    Health: +3.76%

    Utilities: +3.35%

    Financial Services: +3.87%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, OPAP, Piraeus Bank and National Bank.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 0.65

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.12

    Coca Cola HBC: 21.57

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.84

    National Bank of Greece: 4.12

    Eurobank Properties : 8.48

    OPAP: 9.86

    OTE: 10.10

    Piraeus Bank: 1.55

    Titan: 19.90

    [25] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 6.35 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market in the first trading session of 2014 on Monday, with the Greek bond yielding 8.28 pct and the German Bund 1.93 pct. Turnover was a thin 1.0 million euros, one buy order.

    In interbank markets, interest rates remained almost unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.55 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.478 pct, the six-month rate was 0.387 pct, the three-month rate was 0.284 pct and the one-month rate was 0.214 pct.

    [26] ADEX closing report

    The January contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.38 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with 11.499 million euros turnover. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 3,176 contracts worth 6.339 million euros, with 48,533 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 9,657 contracts worth 5.160 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (2,017), followed by Alpha Bank (1,306), OTE (1,130), PPC (785), Mytilineos (768), OPAP (499), Marfin Investment Group (420), Hellenic Exchange (285), Hellenic Petroleum (281), GEK (269), Intralot (188), Ellaktor (176) and Motor Oil (137).

    [27] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.386

    Pound sterling 0.840

    Danish kroner 7.570

    Swedish kroner 9.016

    Japanese yen 145.98

    Swiss franc 1.249

    Norwegian kroner 8.528

    Canadian dollar 1.473

    Australian dollar 1.565

    General News

    [28] German company executives implicated in defence kickbacks case

    Illegal payments of roughly 3 million euros were allegedly made to win two defence contracts, 83-year-old Panagiotis Efstathiou, a representative of German defence company STN Atlas, testified on Thursday before examining magistrate Gavriil Mallis.

    Sources said that the defendant has implicated at least 10 individuals, including two chiefs of staff of the army, in the kickbacks for defence ministry contracts case.

    He also has allegedly named 3 or 4 German nationals, all senior executives of the defence company in question, who made the payments.

    A total of 18 million euros have been tracked to the defendant's London bank accounts, who has already consented to have his bank accounts opened to facilitate the investigation.

    Following Efstathiou's long trial, the investigator and the prosecutor disagreed on whether he would be detained, with the first artguing that he should be held, and the prosecutor asking he be freed on conditions, because of age and health.

    Efstathiou will be held until Friday, when the judicial council will rule whether he should be held or not pending trial. After his testimony, he felt unwell and was picked up by an ambulance.

    On Friday, the investigator will hear the testimony of Dimitris Papachristos, 78, representative of the German-based company Wegmann, responsible for providing the defence ministry with portable shooting weapons. He was arrested on Monday on a warrant.

    [29] Professional from Kavala the lucky winner of New Year's state lottery

    A professional, father of three children, from the northern Greek city of Kavala was the winner of the State Lottery.

    The lucky one will receive 3.5 million euros (after tax deduction).

    [30] Transportation of 85 illegal immigrants to Astypalea island completed

    The 85 illegal immigrants, including 25 women and children, who were picked up on Thursday morning 5.6 nautical miles southwest of Astypalea have been taken temporarily to the island's infirmary, following a difficult operation carried out by the port authorities and coast guard due to bad weather conditions at sea.

    The 85 were on board a yacht that had sent out a distress signal at dawn. They were supplied with water and food before being transferred to patrol boats and the yacht was towed to the island.

    Shipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis has been briefed on the course of the operation from the very beginning.

    [31] Police uncovers theft ring targeting elderly persons

    The police arrested on Thursday a 26-year-old woman and is looking for another 15 individuals on charges of participating in a ring that deceived elderly people into handing over money to them.

    According to police investigation, the ring was established in 2010 and has acted in several regions of the country. Its members approached elderly persons pretending they were acting on behalf of their children or relatives, earned their trust and removed from them significant amounts of money. The police has verified 44 cases related to the ring's activities, which earned them approximately 138,000 euros, while it is believed that the alleged ring members seem to have family connections with each other.

    The arrested woman was led before a prosecutor while personal information including names and ages and photographs of 14 of the alleged ring members were publicised by the police, in order to determine the size of the ring's activities and if its members are involved in other criminal acts.

    [32] Fresh snow in Greece's ski resorts

    Fresh snow fell over the northern Greek mountains in the last days offering the opportunity to winter ski fans to visit one of the 10 ski resorts that were open on Thursday.

    The extreme northwestern ski resort of Kaimaktsalan (Mt. Voras) is open with all lifts in operation as well as the the ski resort of 3-5 Pigadia in Naoussa.

    A total of 31 ski lifts were in operation throughout Greece.

    Due to lack of snow in Vasilitsa resort, the management transferred a large amount of snow from the other slopes to cover existing problems.

    Roads to ski resorts are open. Snow chains are required only for those moving on the regional road network of Western Macedonia and more specifically in the regions of Kastoria and Florina.

    Weather forecast

    [33] Cloudy on Friday

    Cloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday. Winds 2-5 beaufort. Temperatures between 2C and 17C. Slightly cloudy in Athens with northerly 2-4 beaufort winds and temperatures between 6C and 15C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 4C and 12C.

    [34] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: With Memorandum and in 2014.

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: The 18 reversals in social security.

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: 9+1 appointments with Tax Bureau in 2014.

    ESTIA: Year of adjustment into the new reality.

    ETHNOS: 2014' roulette for government and political parties.

    TA NEA: Solidarity wanted, what Greece expects, what Europe pledges.

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