Michalopoulos to be charged

The publisher of the far right-wing daily Eleftheri Ora is to face criminal charges for blackmail and attempted fraud for attempting to extort money from leading industrialists and churchmen, several of whom he allegedly threatened with execution by the extreme left-wing November 17 terrorist group. According to a decision yesterday by senior Athens prosecutor Sotiris Bayias, Grigoris Michalopoulos, 65, blackmailed at least five people – using the N17 threat in at least two cases – and tried to defraud another two victims. The last of his alleged blackmail attempts took place in 2003. The criminal charges – blackmail, attempted blackmail and attempted fraud – will be formally pressed by prosecutor Dimitris Papangelopoulos, who led a six-week investigation ordered in the wake of highly publicized allegations that Michalopoulos had blackmailed a leading industrialist killed 17 years ago by N17. The claims, by steel and shipping magnate Theodoros Angelopoulos – whose wife, Gianna, heads the Athens 2004 Olympic organizing committee – that the publisher took money in 1985 from his uncle, Dimitris, to remove him from the N17 hit list were first presented to Prime Minister Costas Simitis during a private meeting in July. The investigation, during which some 15 witnesses – including several top businessmen and two senior bishops – testified, was ordered in mid-January, when the government officially confirmed July’s tete-a-tete with Simitis. Michalopoulos, an award-winning journalist who is also a professional graphologist and a published poet, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. He notably claimed to have been on the friendliest of terms with the Angelopoulos family for the past three decades, which the family has not denied. Sources close to the investigation said the alleged blackmail victims were Theodoros Angelopoulos, tycoon Yiannis Latsis, the disgraced former owner of the highly popular Olympiakos football club, Argyris Saliarelis, Chrysostomos, Bishop of Zakynthos – a leading Church dissident notorious for advocating premarital sex in a 1998 interview with the men’s magazine Penthouse – and a fifth person who has requested anonymity. Charges will also be brought against «persons unknown,» who may or may not be identified by the investigating magistrate handling the case. An investigation will also be held into a possible link between Michalopoulos and N17, although this is seen as unlikely.