Artemis Sorras, the leader of the fringe ultranationalist movement Convention of Greeks who once claimed to have enough money to pay off Greece’s debt, was remanded in custody Thursday after defending himself to an investigating magistrate on a string of criminal charges.
Sorras, who was arrested last week after 16 months on the run, was greeted by hundreds of supporters outside the Athens courthouse to which he was transferred under heavy police escort. Several of his supporters called on him to “save the country.”
Sorras is charged with running a criminal organization, fraud against the state and banks, and money laundering. He has denied all the charges and is expected to appeal to a judicial council for his release.
Before his disappearance in March last year, Sorras had already been convicted to eight years in prison for embezzlement. According to sources, he told judicial officials that he did not flee to avoid arrest but because his life was in danger.
Prior to his run-in with the law, he claimed to have enough money to pay off Greece’s public debt mountain and encouraged Greek citizens not to pay their tax and social security dues. The impact of his campaign on state coffers remains unclear, though authorities have found thousands of “Sorras payment slips” at Greek tax offices.