3. The Nalmpantis Case (US-EN)

The Nalmpantis Case

In 1967 Mr Pashalis Nalmpantis established a chemical production plant, which from 1982 was converted into a limited company in partnership with his two children, son Apostolos (40%) and daughter Triandafyllia (30%) and himself (30%), trading under the name “Pashalis Nalmpantis & Co. Ε.Ε.” and with the distinctive title “PIROHIM”. This firm was housed in a company-owned building situated in the “Bazouli” district (P 16) of the Municipality of Polihni, Thessaloniki, with an area of 1,000m2 within a plot of 3,200m2 with an assessed value of €2,167,000, where 700 m2 of the building area was occupied by the firm and the remaining 300 m2 housed (was leased by) a footwear manufactory.

On the morning of 20 July 1996 a fire broke out in the building, resulting in injury to the owner’s wife, Iordana Nalmpanti, and the total destruction of the two businesses. Iordana was found guilty of causing the fire and was sentenced to 5 months’ imprisonment for arson through negligence. Specifically, the verdict read that “when the toluene was spilled, static electrical charges created a spark which ignited the toluene vapour produced by the leakage, resulting in the fire”. The family claims that it was not possible for static charges to be produced because the barrel from which the containers were filled was earthed, and that if it had been possible for a fire to be caused by static electricity, it would have started when the first container was being filled and not, as it happened, the third. They also claim that this process had been followed for 30 years without the slightest problem, but these pleas were ignored by the court, which returned the guilty verdict and subsequent conviction.

In 1997 the footwear manufacturer launched an action to claim for actual and consequential damages in the amount of €203,500 and for compensation for immaterial damages of €58,800, i.e. a total amount of €262,000. Due to the fact that the family contested the demands of the claimant, the husband and brother of the claimant assaulted Apostolos Nalmpantis at the time when his wife was pregnant. For this they were sentenced to 10 days’ imprisonment. (Up to this point attorney No.1; thereafter attorney No.2.) After several years of litigation, the final judgement of the Regional Court of Thessaloniki (Regular Procedure) was published with reference 23396/2007, which partially granted the claim of the opposing party and awarded her the amount of €125,000 in actual and consequential damages and the amount of €5,000 in compensation for immaterial damages, i.e. a total of € 130,000, and thereby created a hefty debt.

The Nalmpantis family had always asserted that the amount of €203,500 claimed for actual and consequential damages was inflated, as were the immaterial damages of €58,500, and that the true amount of damages did not exceed €20,000 (in machinery and turnover), and that if the depreciation of the machinery due to age is taken into account, then the amount is much less (the purchase receipts for the machinery, which had been acquired second-hand, were 10 to 20 years old). To support their views, the family produced the purchase receipts for the machinery of the opposing party as well as her account book, which had been found in the embers of the fire and which they have in their possession. Surprisingly, the aforementioned final decision reads as follows: “in their claims the defendants rely on some of these purchase receipts, as well as on an appraisal by ………. (repairer and trader of footwear machinery), which shows that the value of the machinery was significantly lower, without however presenting the relevant documents in this discussion”. The reference to the non-existence of these details, although they were indeed submitted for all the machinery and not just some of it as mentioned in the judgement, and for which there is confirmation from the court, arouses thoughts of suspicious activities. The family filed a suit years ago against those responsible for the “loss” of these relevant documents, but there has been no progress whatsoever in this matter to date.

As was only to be expected, the Nalmpantis family appealed the first instance judgement, but this was dismissed as time-barred by the Court of Appeal of Thessaloniki (First Division) in its judgement reference 2255/2009. The attorney (No.2) gave the excuse that just before the trial she had been summoned to the court of first instance and had therefore missed her turn; and in this way the huge debt was frozen. For reasons unknown, the name of a different attorney appears in the procedural documents, and not that of the attorney the Nalmpantis family had approached. (up to this point attorney No.2; thereafter attorney No.3.)

While all this was in progress, the demands of the opposing party together with interest had increased to €350,000, and in order to recover this, in the spring of 2010, 60% of the real estate belonging to Pashalis and Triandafillia (the 3,200 m2 plot + 1,000 m2 building where the fire occurred) was seized and auctioned, as were another shop of 350 m2, also in Polihni (corner of Agios Panteleimonos and Ethnikis Antistasis streets) belonging to the Nalmpantis family. In the course of the auction, after a request by the Nalmpantis family for a price correction (the objective values had been submitted), the baseline figures were set at €1.5 million for the large property and €120,000 for the smaller property (its market value is approximately €170,000). After two unsuccessful auctions the opposing party, by requesting a price correction with a deposition from the bailiff (who is a trade union official, son of bailiffs, brother of a judge, and the koumbaros[1] of the opposing party’s attorney – against whom a lawsuit for perjury was filed which, despite the fact that his testimony did not contain a single true statement, was rejected because the prosecutor felt that nobody had the right to make the assumption, regardless of whether the deposition corresponded to reality) succeeded in reducing the price for the larger of the properties to €50,000 from an initial €1.5 million (objective value €1.3 million), for the smaller property to €5,000 from €120,000 initially (objective value €67,000).

Finally, during the auction for the large property in June 2011, there appeared and participated a realtor from Thessaloniki, his wife (an attorney), and a third person who immediately withdrew so that the property was awarded to the realtor for the sum of €51,000. Regarding the small property, there appeared and participated the same realtor and a person known to the realtor (he knew very many details about this person), and the property was awarded to the realtor for €8,000. The realtor notified the family of the outcome of the auction via the same bailiff (trade union official, bailiffs’ son, judge’s brother and koumbaros of the opposing party’s attorney). (Up to this point attorney No.3, thereafter attorney No.4.)

Before the auction process, Apostolos Nalmpantis had presented a cheque for €15,000 in order to halt the auctions and propose an agreement to exchange one of the Nalmpantis family’s properties for the claim. Although the opposing party initially accepted, they subsequently failed to honour the agreement due to the fact that the issuer would not cover the cheque. The cheque bounced at the end of January 2011, yet one month before the auction, in June 2011, the opposing attorney seized 40% of Apostolos Nalmpantis’s property with an objective value of €867,000 for this €15,000 and attempted to auction it, too, with the collaboration of the realtor. The family subsequently took out loans to cover the cheque.

After the auction, the Nalmpantis family submitted an appeal to have the auction annulled. This was granted normally for the larger property. In the case of the smaller property, however, just before the expiry of the appeal period, attorney No.4 refused to submit the appeal, saying “No, I will not submit it. You will do as I say, but I will not submit it. Find another attorney if you want to do this”. However, as the deadline had almost expired, it was impossible for the Nalmpantis family to find another attorney to submit the appeal for the smaller property. Once again they found themselves confronted by a fait accompli.

Another strange fact is that, although the large property was incorporated into the city plan by Hellenic Government Gazette Issue (FEK) 1172D/15-12-2004 and because of this incorporation the Municipality required a contribution of €85,000 from 12 March 2009 (a fact of which the realtor was aware), the prosecutor stated: “moreover, after the award of the property to the realtor, an employee of the Inland Revenue Service conducted an on-site inspection of the property for the purpose of establishing the amount of property transfer tax due, designated the property as an unbuilt parcel and used this designation to calculate its objective value and the corresponding tax”, with the result that the realtor paid the transfer rate corresponding to a property valued at €50,000 and not the tax corresponding to the actual value of the property. The same occurred with the property transfer tax for the shop of 350 m2.

After all this, it had become obvious even to the most sceptical observer that something was amiss, and a referral was made to the special appeals prosecutor of Athens, Isidoros Dogiakos, which was filed on 19 December 2011 with the Thessaloniki Appeals Secretariat in order to be sent to Athens. After the deposition at the request of the Appeals Secretariat, they also went to testify at the Secretariat of the High Court at around 10:30 am. There the officer responsible read the text grudgingly and began to mock them and argue forcefully with them, saying “no”, “that is not possible”, “why not refer only to the Athens Appeals Court?”, and with a provocatively ironic tone “and who is this Dogiakos?”, a question which he repeated twice.

He subsequently received the document and took it into the adjacent office of the prosecutor responsible. There it was observed that the prosecutor studied the document – making notes in the text (which they held) with a red pen – searched on his computer, discussed, and finally after 15 minutes handed it back to the officer, who brought it back out to them, telling them to “bring an indictment for misuse of documents”.

To their response that they had already done so years ago, but that the case had not been pursued by the courts, he replied: “I do not care; I will not take it on”, and so they left, having accomplished nothing.

Interested in establishing the fate of the indictment they had brought for misuse of documents, they discovered that it had ended up in the archives shortly after deposition.

The Thessaloniki Appeals Secretariat, however, forwarded the document to Athens and the special prosecutor Isidoros Dogiakos called them to testify in Athens.

A joint deposition was made on 12 January 2012 by Mr Dogiako and Pashalis Nalmpantis to the courts in Thessaloniki, which reached the Thessaloniki appeals court on 7 February 2012. The case was transferred to the court of the first instance on 13 February 2012 at the Appeals Secretariat (the office which did not receive the report). There the case has apparently “stagnated”, and they are still waiting to be called to testify. There is oral testimony for this case which supports the claims of the family.

In addition to all of the above, in the afternoon of 2 November 2013, the wife of Apostolos Nalmpantis received a threatening telephone call immediately after her husband had left the house (which was probably being watched). The call (number withheld) referred to her husband, including a threat against his life. An appropriate lawsuit has been filed.

During all this period, some have approached the Nalmpantis family in order to assist them, and some have actually assisted, but others, recognizing the phenomenon of the “wounded prey”, have merely attempted to gain benefits for themselves.

[1] The Greek term koumbaros denotes the mutual relationship between a bridegroom and his best man, or between the parents and godparents of a child. It is a relationship with some degree of legal standing in Greece.