The Lonely Path of Integrity
Stone Studio

Proini - April 16, 2001

Pirated Copies of Spyridon's Biography in the US

Exandas Publishers denounce their distributor in America for marketing pirated books

Sam Chekwas denies the charges, but does not name his supplier

By Apostolos Zoupaniotis

Exandas Publishers, some ten days ago, brought grave charges against Sam Chekwas, a New York bookseller and publisher, for illegally printing and marketing the authorized biography of Spyridon, former Archbishop of America. The biography is entitled The Lonely Path of Integrity and has been written by journalist Justine Frangouli-Argyris.

The charge was first made public by the Athens News Agency in a press report by the Agency's correspondent in Canada who also happens to be the author of the biography. The charge gives as sole evidence the denunciation made by Stephany and Harry Nicolaou, a couple who had bought 100 copies from Mr Chekwas and who upon opening the boxes "were shocked to find that they had purchased pirated copies, a fact, according to the press report, they reported to the Greek publisher and to the New York district attorney."

The announcement states that "Exandas Publishers denounces the vast fraud, and the theft of intellectual ownership protected by international laws. However, it refrains at present from taking any legal measures in its effort not to compromise in any manner the prestige of the former Archbishop of America, given that the matter pertains to his authorized biography."

As soon as Proini became aware of the charge, it repeatedly asked Exandas Publishers and the author who meanwhile got in touch with us to provide more facts, including putting us in touch with the Nicolaous and informing us in detail about the charge made before the district attorney. The publishers refused to do so on the grounds that the district attorney had already taken up the matter. According to Proini's information, Ms Nikolaou is a former employee of the Archdiocese who was dismissed a year after Archbishop Spyridon's resignation.

At the same time, since the Exandas announcement spoke of "thousands of pirated copies sold accross the US, mainly by bookseller and publisher Sam Chekwas," our newspaper put these charges to Mr Chekwas himself.

At first, Mr Chekwas told us that he did not remember the Nicolaous and that he had never sold anyone 100 books. The next day he confirmed that he had in fact sold such a quantity of books to some couple. He also stated that apart from the 300 copies received from Exandas Publishers, he had been supplied with only 150 other copies by a book wholesaler in Athens. As his wife was at that time having a baby, our contact with him was broken off for a few days.

In the middle of last week, we were able to locate two alleged pirated copies. The first came from the batch of 100 bought by the Nicolaous and the second from a package of ten copies purchased by another individual. The difference in books sold by Exandas Publishers is obvious, particularly as regards the cover and the photographs.

Concurrently, as a result of contacts with various stores that market the biography and with individuals who have bought it in bulk from Mr Chekwas, our newspaper was able to find that they had taken delivery of more than 550 copies in total.

When our charges were brought to Mr Chekwas's attention, we received the explanation that he too had seen some copy which had not seemed to him to be authentic. Nevertheless, as exclusive distributor for Greek publishers in the US he was not able to cite any measures taken by his bookstore to protect his own interests and those of Exandas Publishers.

When we asked him to name his other Athenian supplier, apart from Exandas Publishers, we were told that as he was planning to go to Athens after Easter he himself wanted to speak to the Athenian supplier first and to investigate the charges.

When one of several self-contradictions he had made was pointed out to him, he told us that there is also another supplier from whom he buys books in Athens (a fact that he had initially concealed) and that until he himself had investigated every aspect of the matter, he did not wish to make any further statement. However, he denied any personal responsibility. He described the figures for the sales of the book as "fantasy" and added that he is the victim of a "conspiracy." He did, however, tell us that he had written to Exandas Publishers and to the book's author, Justine Frangouli. Although he told us that he would send us copies of the letters, he has so far not done so.

A charge against the philhellene Nigerian publisher and owner of the sole Greek bookshop has also been made by another Greek-American lady from Michigan. She had sent him the sum of 3,000 dollars of which a thousand was to be used for the purchase of books to be sent free to certain recipients, while the rest was for the publication of a new book to promote Greek literature.

Mr Chekwas, who cashed only the check for a thousand dollars, sent the lady receipts for the books, before, however, sending them to the addressees. The receipts showed that the books had been paid for, not by the Greek-American lady, but by various recipients. Mr Chekwas explained that, being currently out of stock, he would send the packages as soon as he had been supplied with more books. Yet, since a problem had arisen with the lady from Michigan, he would return her money. The Exandas announcement urged those who had purchased "pirated copies" to return them to the bookseller and demand the immediate return of their money.

[Translated from Greek]