A quip by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras over the weekend has reportedly thrown a "monkey wrench" into an ongoing tender process to sell-off the bankrupt Henry Dunant (Errikos Dinan) Hospital in Athens, with the former insinuating that the debt-ridden facility was "stolen" from the state's clutches.
Tsipras made the comment on Saturday from Thessaloniki, where he inaugurated a major trade show in the city.
The comment marked the first time that Tsipras, since signing and delivering the recently concluded third bailout back in July 2015, has publicly spoken out against a scheduled privatization in the country. The hospital, in fact, was never a state-owned health care facility but was built and operated by the Greek Red Cross.
The former head of the Greek Red Cross and the hospital, Andreas Martinis, is the most prominent defendant among a group people facing felony embezzlement (in the millions of euros range), breach of faith and money laundering charges in the case.
An Oct. 15 deadline now looms for the submission of final bids for the hospital, as part of a process overseen by PwC, in its capacity as the financial adviser in the sale.
According to reports, Greek lender Piraeus Bank, which has placed the hospital on the selling block, will proceed with the tender.
Among the five suitors is the Onassis Foundation, which Tsipras directly referred to on Saturday, and which, in fact, he thanked from the podium of the trade exhibition.
Speculation is rife in the Greek capital that the charitable foundation, designated in the last will and testament of late shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, will donate the hospital to the Greek state if it's the highest bidder.
Nevertheless, Tsipras' quip was considered by some quarters as warning-off the other four private-sector bidders.
Neither the Apostolopoulos group, which operates the Athens Medical Center, nor the CVC fund, which recently submitted a successful bid for the Hygeia health care group, participated in the tender for the Henry Dunant.