The Australian chapter of AHEPA, the largest Hellenic Association in the world, has spent hundreds of thousands of Australian dollars in court fees; money that could have been spent on the needs of the Greek community.

Legal disputes over administrative decisions have cost the chapter at least $600,000 with other estimates placing the total figure as high as $3 million worth of the organisation’s funds.

Neos Kosmos newspaper was sent a communique referring to a 3 October judgement of the Supreme Court of NSW in the case of plaintiffs George Lianos, Con Gouros and Luke Kypraios v. the Order of AHEPA NSW INC. The judgement, ruling in favour of AHEPA NSW, was sent to our newspaper for the purposes of “absolute transparency”.

Passing verdict, Her Honour Justice Rees ordered that the decisions reached at the special general meeting of AHEPA on 13 November 2018 was valid and that “resolutions passed at the special general meeting of the first defendant (the Association) […] to amend the Association’s constitution and/or adopt a new constitution is not invalid.”

Stakeholders within the NSW organisation told Neos Kosmos that the legal battle was focused on administrative issues and pointed to efforts also being made by members of AHEPA Australia to undermine its leadership in order to bring the Sydney branch under its jurisdiction “or else cause financial problems”. The organisation pointed to a group of members, from Melbourne in particular, causing problems.

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The plaintiffs lost the court case, however state that the current administration of AHEPA is not operating in the interests of the organisation, and is excluding members from the process. They have until Monday to decide whether to appeal the court’s decision.

“On Friday, 4 October, we saw a photograph of a building that is yet to be built on the front page of Kosmos newspaper,” said an AHEPA stakeholder from the AHEPA in NSW Grand Lodge Inc, pointing to the Bexley Club that AHEPA NSW hopes to create as a cultural centre. Critics of the project say that it will be a ‘Trojan horse’ for the group, however add that recent legal proceedings were not motivated by their opposition to the work.

“The court case was for the falsification of the members catalogue at the general meeting of 13 November 2018,” they say.

“Apart from changes to the catalogues of branches we also had the unlawful registry of 140 people who were not members of the organisation and which were not financially sound.”

The three plaintiffs were representatives of three AHEPA chapters and supported by a total of six groups with 200 paying members.

Critics of the management of AHEPA NSW state that previous legal action has cost the club anything from $1.2 million to $1.5 million worth of fees.

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Though the legal action was not linked to the Bexley Club project as was insinuated in the front page story linked to the court case, plaintiffs also point to initial estimations for improvements to the $700,000 property seemed reasonable four years ago, however soon the estimated costs burgeoned out of control when  plans to demolish the building were introduced. Opponents point to other solutions, such as the use of the buildings at Rockdale that are owned by the association.

One thing is certain, the Australian chapter of the group established in 1922 by visionary Greek Americans to protect their countrymen from prejudice and discrimination, has lost its way and is squandering funds on legal battles rather than unified commitment to the initial cause.