Heroin ring investigation gathers pace

As a probe into a huge international heroin-trafficking ring widens, an investigating magistrate is on Tuesday to start hearing the testimony of another 14 suspected members of the racket.

The 14, who are to testify in three groups Tuesday through Thursday, were arrested over the weekend after authorities traced a ton of heroin to a warehouse in Koropi, eastern Attica, and determined that a Togo-flagged tanker had carried that cache, as well as an additional ton of the drug that was discovered in two different locations earlier this month.

The 14 face charges of running a criminal gang and drug trafficking, the same charges as those leveled against another 12 people including a Greek shipowner and members of his family. The 14 are: the 11 Indian crew members of the Togo-flagged Noor One tanker, which is moored near the port of Elefsina; a 53-year-old woman believed to represent the firm that owns the Noor One; a male suspect who is alleged to have helped transfer one of the first consignments of drugs to a house in Filothei; and an Iranian national who is said to have guarded the drugs at a Koropi warehouse.

Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis indicated on Monday that authorities were likely to arrest further suspects – in addition to the 26 already charged in connection with the racket. “We will find more people implicated in the ring, both inside and outside Greece,” Varvitsiotis told Vima FM radio station.

He added that the racket was believed to be one of the biggest to have ever operated in Europe.

Sources told Kathimerini that a 52-year-old fuel trader who is believed to have chartered the Noor One was expected to hand himself over to police soon.

Police are also investigating the husband of the 53-year-old shipping firm representative who, it is thought, owns the Noor One.