Important developments on Koumbara, part 1 – Victory at the Supreme Court!

During the two months that elapsed since our last post, two important developments on the Koumbara case took place. Koumbara used to be a spectacularly beautiful beach in Ios, connected to an islet called Diakofto via a narrow path made by small rocks. Koumbara and Diakofto have been damaged significantly because of illegal constructions by company 105 SA.

The first development is very positive and concerns a decision by the penal branch of Areios Pagos, Greece’s Supreme Court on civil and penal matters. As we wrote in previous posts, the First-Degree Court of Naxos handed a 16-month suspended jail sentence to the legal representative of 105 SA for environmental and building violations in Koumbara. The defendant appealed the sentence. The Appeals Court of Syros found the defendant guilty and handed her a 9-month suspended jail sentence. The violations that formed the basis for the decision made by the Appeals Court include (a) the construction of two concrete-made bridges linking Koumbara with Diakofto, (b) earthmoving works inside the stream of Koumbara, with part of the stream being converted into a parking lot, and (c) the construction of a road inside a beach and seafront area.

The defendant filed a request with Areios Pagos asking for the cancellation of the decision made by the Appeals Court. The penal branch of the Supreme Court heard the case in mid-December and REJECTED the request, with decision 1607/2023.

The Supreme Court’s decision is very important. If the Supreme Court had accepted the defendant’s request, the case would have returned to the First-Degree Court of Naxos for retrial. Given the eight-year statute of limitations, the case would have likely been dismissed. Instead, as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, 105 SA is found guilty definitely and irrevocably for environmental and building violations. Mr Michalopoulos can no longer argue that there is no irrevocable court sentence against his companies, as he did in previous interviews (e.g., https://www.kathimerini.gr/society/562104199/to-protzekt-tis-ioy-kai-ta-mpofor/ and https://insidestory.gr/article/oi-ependyseis-stin-io-meta-ste-kai-ta-nea-prostima). 

Our association participated in all three trials to support the accusations. We are very grateful to our lawyers for their hard work and for their important contribution to the end result.

The positive conclusion of the case is an important success of our association, but is only part of the actions that are needed to repair the environmental damage at Koumbara and to punish those responsible for it. This is for two reasons.

First, the violations for which the legal representative of 105 SA was convicted are only part of the entirety of violations and illegal activity of 105 SA in Koumbara. The violations examined by the courts were documented during an inspection made in 2016. The environment inspectors during that visit documented and subsequently confirmed (after receiving the company’s replies) eight violations. Because 105 SA had not allowed full access by the inspectors at Diakofto, a second inspection was needed and took place in 2018. The environment inspectors during that visit documented and subsequently confirmed TWELVE ADDITIONAL violations. For the twelve violations, 105 SA was fined 132000 Euros in 2023, and the file was forwarded to the Prosecutor at Naxos for possible penal sentencing. That trial has not taken place yet.

Second, the penal sentence that has been handed out concerns only the punishment of those responsible and does not force the company or the state to restore the environmental damage. The restoration of the damage is an administrative procedure, which requires decisions and actions by the public administration. The penal sentence does not have any automatic or direct implications for the decisions that the administration will take. 

The second development at Koumbara concerns decisions by the administration about the restoration of Koumbara. This development is negative, but we hope it will be reversible. We will write about it in our next post.

See Also

Fines and trash

Mr. Michalopoulos’ companies continue accumulating fines for environmental and urban