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Passion for Athos

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  • Nina Tkachuk Dimas
    [Below is minimally edited machine translation of the 3rd section of an abbreviated article, Passion for Athos,  published by Sovershenno Sekretno .  This
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 31, 2011
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      [Below is minimally edited machine translation of the 3rd section of an abbreviated article, Passion for Athos,  published by "Sovershenno Sekretno".  This section gives just a hint of what the Fr. Ephraim matter is all about. http://www.sovsekretno.ru/magazines/article/3015.%c2%a0

      The fascinating, but very lengthy article, Passion for the Belt of the Theotokos, appeared in 

      http://moskor.blogspot.com/2011/12/blog-post_26.html%c2%a0%5d

      Vatopedi scandal

      But if the Russian Orthodox
      journalists would have read the Greek press for early November, they would have easily
      learned that even before the Theotokos Belt's trip to Russia the court decided to question Abbot
      Ephraim on 29 November re: the case of "the exchange of lands between the monastery
      and the government." On November 14 Father Arseny,
      financier of Vatopedi monastery was questioned in this case. It is for this reason he did not go to Russia to accompany Belt of
      the Theotokos. According
      to English language newspaper "The Greek Reporter," "charges against the two clerics
      are suspicion of forgery, fraud and laundering money proceeds from unlawful
      activity."

      The scandalous case of "the exchange of lands between the monastery and
      the state" for which the just-returned from Moscow Abbot
      Ephraim was interrogated, began in late 2008 and since then it Greek journalists and politicians have been discussing it one way or another. It is because of this real estate scandal, first two Greek government ministers left and then Prime Minister of
      Greece Costas Karamanlis was forced to call an early election. And it is because of this scandal that he lost it.
       
      At
      the end of 2008, Greek journalists published details of suspicious
      transactions between Vatopedi Monastery and the Greek government. In order to understand the essence of this scandal, it
      must be said that the Greek state still recognizes real estate records which were issued by Turkish sultans and Byzantine
      emperors. In ancient Mt. Athos monasteries founded over a century ago one finds such documents from time to
      time.  It has been written many times that one of the major achievements of the superior of the Vatopedi monastery, a former Cypriot, igumen Ephraim -- was bringing order to the
      monastery archives and library.  Apparently, in the course of this work, Igumen
      Ephraim found an ancient document, which indicated that a large area of forest and the lake Vistonida in northern
      Greece belong to the monastery.

      Vatopedi monastery began to sue the
      government for its rights. After nearly five years of litigation the court found the ancient document
      is genuine and a huge chunk of forest preserve and the lake became the property
      of the monastery. But almost immediately afterwards
      Vatopedi monastery exchanged the land and lake for several hotels in the heart of
      Athens - built for the Olympics -  and for tourist resorts not far from
      Athos. Greek
      journalists established that this exchange was completely uneven. The chunk of land
      and the lake were worth a hundred times less than the State's tourist real
      estate. According to a parliamentary inquiry, the State's losses were
      estimated to be in the range of one hundred million to half a billion euros.

      Greek bureaucracy is notorious in
      Europe. But in this deal with the Vatopedi monks the doors of ministries were opened as if by magic. In a very short time, several
      Greek ministers and their deputies signed all the necessary documents for
      the exchange. And thewife of the minister of maritime trade, Yorgas Vulgarakis, a notary by profession, instantly notarized these
      exchanges.
       
      Parliamentary
      investigation of this deal began under the Karamanlis government, then continued
      under the new government and continues to this day. The press accused ministers of
      taking bribes, but failed to prove it.Now in Greece they write  that the history of the Vatopedi monastery is
      likely related to lobbying by the interests of the monastic republic of Mount Athos through the pastoral care
      of senior officials.

      But during the
      investigation there arose suspicions of forgery of ancient real estate documents.  In addition, it
      appears that the humble Athos monks run many offshore companies
      which are registered in Cyprus, deal on the stock exchanges, have a share in the mining industry in
      Greece and Cyprus, several hotels and other real estate in many Balkan
      countries. "But they pay  virtually no taxes", wrote The New York Times.
       
      In November 2008 the site of the independent
      information-analytical group "Balkananalizis" reported, citing
      publication in the Greek press, that a commission of the Greek Parliament committee found 200 million euros in the bank accont of igumen Ephraim.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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