Eight men arrested in Crete as suspected members of an extortion and loansharking racket were charged with forming and joining a criminal organization by a prosecutor on Wednesday.
According to information from local news website cretapost, the suspects are four Greek nationals aged 47, 45, 37 and 24 and four Albanians, aged 30, 33 and two 32-year-olds.
The criminal ring was formed about three years ago when some of the accused started blackmailing local businessmen and private citizens who were facing financial difficulties. The high-interest loans they offered were repaid in cash or checks, but if the victims could not repay they were threatened into pawning off their cars or real estate.
The initial ring soon branched out to create other blackmailing groups with different members who often cooperated between them. If a victim could not repay one ring, he was told to borrow money from the other.
To launder the illicit money, the group had set up rent-a-car businesses and car dealerships with non-existent headquarters and employees and built luxury homes.