DEPA legal ordeal with troubled fertilizer producer ELFE still not over

An ongoing legal battle between DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation, and ELFE (Hellenic Fertilizers and Chemicals) as to whether the debt-laden industrial producer in Kavala, northern Greece, should keep being supplied natural gas by the corporation carried on at an Athens Court of First Instance yesterday. Both sides submitted their cases but a verdict is not expected for a few more months.

Until then, action by DEPA, threatening to cut gas supply to the producer, the government, or the Lavrentiadis corporate group, ELFE’s owner, cannot be ruled out.

A hearing that was scheduled to take place at a Kavala court on August 29 was relayed to the Athens Court of First Instance by the northern court after it decided it did not have legal jurisdiction for this particular case.

The Panhellenic Energy Organization (POE), Kavala Labor Center and chemical industry workers union group all testified against ELFE, which has cut jobs.

During yesterday’s hearing, riot police stationed outside the court throughout the hearing needed to intervene to stop clashes that broke out between former and current ELFE employees.

Early during the hearing, a marathon session, the court sought to establish a compromise agreement, following a proposal by ELFE, but the terms offered were rejected by both sides.

Last July, ELFE filed a case to the Kavala court in response to a decision by DEPA’s shareholders to demand cash as part of the prepayments by the producer for its weekly gas consumption instead of just postdated checks. The DEPA shareholders also called for debt-reduction measures against ELFE, which owes 110 million euros to the gas corporation.

ELFE responded by filing for security measures in a bid to keep issuing postdated checks for these payments, as the industrial producer has done over the past two years.