'Vulture funds' circle as Greece fears grow

As Greeks rush to withdraw savings, bailout fund pays US tax exile €400m

Athens

An American tax exile living in the Cayman Islands has emerged as a winner from the chaos engulfing Greece, even as the political and economic turmoil in the beleaguered nation deepened yesterday, with Athens putting a senior judge in charge of an emergency government to lead it to fresh elections.

Kenneth Dart, the Michigan-born heir to a disposable cups fortune, was handed an estimated €400m (£320m) cheque from Greece this week, after successfully calling the country's bluff and refusing to take part in the restructuring of government debt that saved Greece from default in the spring.

Amid alarming reports of depositors withdrawing their cash from Greek banks, the government decided it could ill afford a showdown with Mr Dart's hedge fund, Dart Management, and similar "vulture funds" who have purchased Greek debt and are threatening to sue if the interest payments are not made. Concerns over the state of the nation's banks have mounted as the odds of a disorderly Greek exit from the eurozone have shortened in recent days, and keeping the financial system sound will be the No 1 priority of Panagiotis Pikramenos, named caretaker Prime Minister after the collapse of coalition talks on Tuesday.

He is charged with steering Greece to new elections on 17 June without incident, although concerns over the risk of financial panic have risen since European political leaders began to speculate that Greece could leave the euro. Moreover, recent opinion polls suggest that anti-bailout parties – in particular the Syriza party led by Alexis Tsipras – could return with a bigger slice of the vote after the June elections.

This already complex picture is further complicated by the role of the vulture funds. Dart Management holds a significant portion of the roughly 5 per cent of Greek debt that was not subject to renegotiation under the terms of its bailout deal, and took a reported 90 per cent of the €436m paid by the Greek government to bondholders on Tuesday. While Mr Dart is still a board member of the family company, Dart Containers, which is America's largest producer of plastic cups, he has not lived in the country since 1994.

After decamping from the US on his 220ft yacht, he settled in the Cayman Islands, where he is a powerful real estate developer. Dart Management, along with another vulture fund Elliott Associates, is likely to have picked up Greek debt at a fraction of its value in the hope of being able to force the country into paying some or all of what it owes. The two firms are still suing Argentina in the US courts to demand full payment of bonds on which that government defaulted in 2002. Mr Dart first came to international attention in this sphere by pocketing an estimated $600m from putting pressure on the Brazilian government after its default in 1993.

Yesterday, the company refused to comment on what it called market rumours. The Greek government, meanwhile, said Tuesday's payments did not set a precedent that meant it would divert any more of its precious bailout cash to the vulture funds in future.

The threat of a legal battle that could tie up funds earmarked for Greece from European bailout coffers adds another concern to that stoked by news that more than €1bn has been withdrawn from Greek banks in two days by savers fearing financial chaos if the country returns to the drachma.

These worrying figures were not reflected in the streets of Athens, however. On Syntagma Square, no long queues had formed at cash machines.

"We can't all start panicking and running to the bank. The country will collapse if we do that, "said Marika Tilanogiannis, a mechanical engineer. "What little I have left, I leave for Greece."

Marika's brother didn't share her optimism – Giorgos had moved his savings to a bank abroad. But Marika's reasoning was echoed by experts who cautioned that politicians' pessimistic statements about the country's finances risked turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"This entire situation has got my family extraordinarily worried about our savings, in case we return to the drachma," said Yannis Paleologos, a 40-year-old pharmacist. "We have a considerable amount of money and we're scared to lose it." Mr Paleologos was about to go to a bank to discuss how to preserve his deposits in case of an exit from the single currency union.

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
i100
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfordshire - £350 - £360

£350 - £360 per day: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfor...

Chief Financial Officer

120-150k: Accountancy Action: We are looking for an experienced CFO from a min...

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again