NEWS

Prosecutors throw the book at Sorras

TAGS: Crime, Politics

The Athens prosecutor’s office on Tuesday published a long list of charges against self-proclaimed trillionaire Artemis Sorras and seven close associates that includes almost every crime in the Greek penal code save murder.

Sorras and seven of his associates in his ultranationalist Convention of Greeks movement are being accused of racketeering, multiple fraud against individuals, the state, banks and social security funds, encouraging others to commit crime, perjury and money laundering, among other crimes.

The charges come after Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis earlier this year called for multiple separate investigations into the man who claims to have enough money to pay off Greece’s public debt and that of every Greek citizens to be brought under one roof.

The initiative brought to light what appears to be a large-scale scam, whereby thousands of citizens were encouraged to pay for membership in Convention of Greeks in exchange for false assurances that all of their debts would be paid off from an imaginary fund managed by Sorras.

The report published on Tuesday by investigators reveals evidence to suggest that at least 12,000 Greeks have sent letters to banks, tax offices and social security providers to which they owe money “authorizing” them to claim their debts from the Sorras fund.

While these authorizations have no legal basis, particularly as the fund has been proven to be nonexistent, they have built up into a red-tape headache, as each has to be submitted to due process. Sorras supporters are also behind a campaign inundating tax offices around the country with thousands of similar missives, refusing to pay their debts.

Preliminary figures from the investigation indicate, for example, that the IKA social security fund is owed a total of 4.7 million euros from 115 citizens who submitted such “authorizations” and cannot take any action to collect the money until each claim is processed.

Prosecutors are also building their case around complaints by citizens who came forward in the wake of publications exposing Sorras’s claims and admitted to having been tricked into paying a membership fee to Convention of Greeks in exchange for help to settle their debts.

The organization is believed to have thousands of members, lured through social media and other public forums by such promises.

Sorras and his wife, meanwhile, are at large after eluding arrest over an eight-year conviction handed down earlier this month by a court in Patra, western Greece, for embezzlement.

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