From left to right: Alkiviadis Kalambokis, president of Cretan Export Association, Costco distributor Tassos Chronopoulos, John Botzakis, and Stavros Arnaoutakis, governor of Crete

A routine, semi-annual meeting between an American distributor, Costco representatives and an olive oil producer on Crete last week has set off a flurry of press articles that the meeting participants have called “fiction and misleading,” contrived by an amateur journalist attempting to make a story out of a simple tour.

Blogs and news sites in Greece began posting stories over the weekend that Costco had agreed to buy 400 tons of olive oil monthly from a producer on Crete, Botzakis, S.A.

Such news naturally caused a stir from Chania to Chicago with many immediately questioning the unusual announcement.

It all began with a press article that appeared October 25 on the official website of the regional government of Crete that said Costco representatives had, during a meeting in a Heraklion hotel, agreed to buy 400 tons of olive oil every month from Botzakis. From there, the news was syndicated through various blogs and news portals in Greece. An article in Olive Oil Times also cited those sources.

A lawyer for Tassos Group, George S. Boubaris, said today “as a result, I have been instructed since the first moment to deal with the malicious, misleading and false ‘press article’ that appeared in Crete Region’s official web page.” Some of the articles have since been removed from the websites at Boubaris’ request, he said. Botzakis S.A. also posted pictures of the meeting on its Facebook page in posts that have since been removed.

“I can professionally assure you that no agreement of whatsoever nature was signed last week or in the past between Tassos Group, Costco and Botzakis SA,” Boubaris added. “This false report was probably a fiction of the person that wrote it, in his attempt to make a story out of a simple tour, without realizing the effects of such a story.”

Asked if there were any suspicions as to why such a story would be fabricated, Boubaris said it “may be local politics and an attempt to promote the local Governor and his work.”

“I can assure you, that all the deals Tassos Group has signed in the past were definitely without the intervention or participation of any Greek government agency or body, rather on the contrary, as Tassos has always tried to stay away from politics and government subsidies.”

“What you might not realize (and neither the person who wrote this article did) is the large effects this has on the local economy and the economy of Greece in general,” Boubaris said. “This is the time of olive pricing and imagine what the effect will be (or already is) on pricing, if local producers think that someone is ready to absorb their production and actually allegedly in need for it. Prices are rising with no reason.”

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