The questions I couldn’t ask Mr. Filippidis

The questions I couldn’t ask Mr. Filippidis

It was not the most pleasant journey through the city of Istanbul that evening, two days ago. Over the second Bosphorus bridge, and then through an endless mass of cement in various shapes and sizes, which millions of residents of Istanbul call “dwellings of modern living,” through amorphous treeless neighborhoods, spreading like disease beyond the manicured flowery banks of the motorway.

But I had to do it. Once again, I had to visit the place, which for the last few days has been the heart of an unraveling Greek political drama: the Maltepe Açık Ceza İnfaz Kurumu, where Angelos Filippidis, the former president of the Hellenic Postbank (TT), was spending yet another evening in the foreigners Blok L.

For the last ten days, Filippidis has been my sole professional obsession as everything about him seems to be making big news in Greece. Caught in an Istanbul hotel after a red bulletin of Interpol and accused for approving unsecured loans of hundreds of million Euros to “friends and colleagues,” Filippidis is now spending his days in this “modern” Turkish prison. One of the five of so thousand inmates, probably staying in one of the two-bed or four-bed cells for foreigners and waiting for his extradition to Greece.

There is nothing more frustrating for a journalist to be so physically near your story and yet so far from it. I mean standing outside the main prison gate on the top of Sancaktepe area of Istanbul, at the start of a cold evening, knowing behind those barbed walls, somewhere among the dozens of single story-large buildings, Mr. Filippidis is planning his next steps that may bring Greek politics upside down, because his connections and decisions touch upon big players in politics and recent business life that reach up to the family of former prime minister George Papandreou.

 But I am not allowed to cross the gate –only his attorney, consular authorities or close relatives– I cannot ask him anything. Frustrated and cold, I had to repeat on camera, “the fugitive banker remains in Maltepe Prison, in the foreigners block, waiting eagerly, as he claims to be extradited, in order to explain everything was done according to order. The Turkish judicial authorities are waiting for his translated file to be sent to them from Greece for the procedure of extradition to be completed.”

If I had the chance to talk to him, I would have asked him first, why did he chose to come to Istanbul before returning immediately to Athens as the prosecuting authorities asked him to do; who were his “contacts” in Istanbul that he came to see and why. And most of all, who advised him to hire the penal lawyer Ms. Şeyda Yıldırım to deal with his case before the Turkish judicial authorities? Her interesting background as an attorney of the mafia leader Alaattin Çakıcı and presently the Azeri shady businessman Reza Zarrab makes his choice puzzling. Actually, the last issue bothered me a lot. I tried to contact Ms. Yıldırım after getting her contact numbers from the Istanbul Bar association. I wanted to ask her how long her client will be kept in Turkey. But her mobile number was answered by a woman who claims to not be her and there was no answer from her office. Maybe it is all a coincidence, but perhaps there is a lot more in the story than just reporting from the frozen hills of Sancaktepe.