In a country with 20,000 unemployed doctors, the one with the forged medical degree was offered a top job only to see his Ferrari-laden world come toppling around him. For thirteen years, Giannis Kastanis headed the regional hospital of Skyros, representing himself as a doctor after presenting false certification to the Greek Health Ministry.
Brought back from the United States, where he fled, he was handed over to Greek authorities to face the music and receive a life sentence for his crime of defrauding the Greek state out of 667,000 euros during his tenure as medical director of the Sporadic island.
The fraud began in 1993 when he was licensed by the Argolida prefecture to practise as a doctor before he transfered to Agios Andreas hospital, and later, Skyros. As director of the Regional Hospital of Skyros, he enjoyed an extravagant lifestyle before a citizen’s complaint stirred an investigation into his background. All it took was a small probe into his academic qualifications at La Sapienza University of Rome to reveal that he was not listed as an alumni on the registry.
During his sentencing, Kastanis insisted he was a doctor and unaware all this time that his medical certificate had been forged. He says he had passed medical tests in Athens with flying colours and had served his agricultural service as a doctor. Patients travelled from Skyros to testify in his favor at the hearing at Evia, stating their satisfaction for the treatment they received and praising his skills as a plastic surgeon.
Unmoved by all this, the judge issued a harsh sentence, giving Kastanis life imprisonment and setting a precedent for such cases. A photographer working as a radiologist at the same hospital was given a double life sentence for impersonating a medical worker. The radiologist was tried in absentia as he now lives in the United States.
Once again, justice has been served by half. The real perpetrators of the crime are the ones who let it happen in a case that raises a number of questions:
1) The fake degree had been recognized by the relevant Greek authority (Dikatsa) with translations of the fake certificates validated by the police. Why was the authenticity of the certificates not atchecked? What will be the repercussions for those who recognized his degree?
2) Who appointed Kastanis? Why were the candidate’s degrees not checked when he was hired to head the Skyros regional hospital?
3) For five months every year, Kastanis was away from Skyros. Why was there never an inquiry as to the legitimacy of having a highly-paid director missing from his post for almost half the year?
4) Skyros Mayor Miltiadis Hatzigiannakis had issued numerous complaints about the inadequate and dangerous medical aid offered on the island. Why were these complaints ignored?
5) Kastanis lived in the lap of luxury. How could he afford a private jet and a Ferrari on his wages? Will the luxury items he owned by confiscated by the state and be returned to state coffers?
6) Were authorities not alerted to the scammer when he purposely drove his Ferrari off a cliff to get insurance money? The insurance company did not approve the claim as it appeared obvious to them that the accident had been set up. Why was a deeper probe into Kastanis activities not begun?
7) Apart from having fake certificates, Kastanis also had three tax registration numbers and three ID cards. Why did the tax office not find him before the health investigators?
8) Why did the circle of people who knew that Kastanis was a fake doctor not report him earlier?