Sunday, February 26, 2012

Greek farce is proof that truth is stranger than fiction

Kate McClymont
February 27, 2012
Tardy... Theo Skalkos after a court appearance last week. His former barrister described him as "one of the greatest scoundrels of all time".
Tardy... Theo Skalkos after a court appearance last week. His former barrister described him as "one of the greatest scoundrels of all time". Photo: Ben Rushton
THE controversial ethnic press baron Theo Skalkos, whose barrister described him as ''one of the greatest scoundrels of all time'', is in strife again.
Mr Skalkos, 80, a former bankrupt, appeared in Central Local Court last week facing assault and firearm charges after he allegedly pointed a loaded double-barrel shotgun at a plumber who was chasing Mr Skalkos for unpaid plumbing work.
On December 19, James Hasapis, 24, went to Mr Skalkos's premises in Ricketty Street, Mascot, wanting to speak to Mr Skalkos about the $23,500 he claims Mr Skalkos owes him.
Mr Hasapis told police he was shown to Mr Skalkos's upstairs office. When Mr Skalkos excused himself for a moment, Mr Hasapis said he thought he was going to get his cheque book. Instead the publisher of The Greek Herald allegedly returned with a shotgun, which Mr Hasapis alleges he proceeded to load before pointing it at him.
Mr Hasapis went to the police, who later arrested Mr Skalkos and charged him with assault and failure to safely store a Laurona 12 gauge double-barrel shotgun. He was also charged with not having approved storage for a large amount of ammunition.
As Mr Skalkos's hearing aids continued to cause interference with the court's audio system, his barrister, Archie Hallas, told the magistrate Peter Miszalski that the charges were being ''re-considered'' by police.
Nicknamed ''Earthquake'', due to his thunderous personal style, Mr Skalkos has long been a controversial figure within the Greek community. In 2004, he was bankrupted with debts of $25 million. Creditors included the Australian Tax Office and prominent members of the Greek community who had won substantial defamation payouts from Mr Skalkos.
While Mr Skalkos paid businessman Josef Assaf $150,000 for defaming him, he did not pay Mr Assaf's $941,000 legal bill despite being ordered to do so. Mr Assaf initiated bankruptcy proceedings.
The president and 10 directors of Canterbury Marrickville Olympic soccer club also won a $685,000 payout from Mr Skalkos, which was not paid. Lawyer Simon Konstantinidis was owed in excess of $900,000 after suing Mr Skalkos and his paper. He also was not paid.
Other people embroiled in defamation stoushes with Mr Skalkos include a former consul-general of Greece, who was accused of neglecting her diplomatic duties by working as a taxi driver at the behest of her new lover.
Then there was the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Australia who was accused of ''immoral behaviour'' in Mr Skalkos's paper, resulting in settlements with undisclosed payments. Mr Skalkos was also sued by his longtime barrister Stuart Littlemore, QC, over $300,000 in unpaid fees. Mr Littlemore later described his former client as ''one of the greatest scoundrels of all times''.
However, it hasn't all been losses. In 2003 Mr Skalkos succeeded in having a sexual assault claim against him dismissed by a magistrate. He had been accused of trying to force himself upon a 35-year-old employee.
Mr Skalkos's latest legal stoush will return to court on March 26.

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