Top Greek shipowner Victor Restis cleared of embezzlement and money laundering charges

Money laundering and embezzlement charges against Greek ship owner, Victor Restis, were dismissed by the Athens-based Greek Supreme Court which stated the defendant’s actions had been standard business practice and therefore not illegal.

The affair had led to Restis, one of Greece’s best known shipowners being held in custody for more than four months back in 2013.

Restis’ mother Bella Resti and 16 other defendants were also acquitted of all charges related to two loans totaling EUR15.8m ($17.6m), granted in 2012 by the then First Business Bank (FBBank) of which Restis was chairman and his family a major shareholder.

The court ruled both loans were genuine and noted the shipowner repaid them fully. By the same decree (1192/2016), all bank executives involved in the case were acquitted.

Restis’ group of companies is one of the largest in Greece and is engaged in shipping, investment, media and real estate.

Charges included the accusation that by failing to disclose his identity in FBBank loan application documents, and receiving a preferential interest rate and terms, Restis had deliberately concealed the true ownership of the companies involved and acted in breach of his fiduciary duty to the bank as a board member.

In its decision, the Court of Appeal noted the funds in question had been a loan for working capital and had duly been applied to the day-to-day running of the company and therefore not been used inappropriately. It also stated that considering Restis was in charge of a shipping group with a net value exceeding EUR620m, at no time was the financial stability of FBBank compromised by the loan.

Furthermore, the charge of embezzlement could not be established since the loans had been fully paid, and in particular, a second loan had been paid before it even became due. The Court concluded that therefore there had been an intention all along to repay the loan, and the material ability to do so and that the charges against Restis were wrong.

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