Six alleged members of extortion racket re-arrested

Six of the 10 suspected members of interlinked Athens protection and smuggling rackets who had been originally apprehended – only to be released pending trial – last July in a police crackdown on the vast crime syndicate were charged anew with extortion yesterday following their arrest earlier this week. Attica extortion squad officers caught up with Ioannis Skaftouros, 34, Alexandros Bellos, 46, Stavros and Andreas Papadimitriou, 35 and 23 respectively, Anargyros Dermitzoglou, 31, and Giorgos Kotrotsos, 42, after charges were brought against them by businessmen in western Attica who claimed to have been forced to pay between 60 and 500 euros per week in protection fees to the gang members. The men had originally been arrested in July and charged with crimes including murder, attempted murder, arson, causing explosions, money laundering, and smuggling cigarettes and fuel. Vassilis Stefanakos, 42 – the suspected king of the Athens protection racketeers – and Albanian nationals Adriano Kola and Telat Aslanaz are also implicated for participating in the same racket. Aslanaz is the only one of the nine not included on a list of 44 arrest warrants issued by a prosecutor in last July’s protection racket crackdown. Stefanakos has escaped arrest. Skaftouros and Bellos were released on bail following their arrest last year, while the others were released on restrictive terms. Skaftouros – also a suspected senior member of the gang – was charged last August with complicity in attempted murders and arson, money laundering, grievous bodily harm, as well as extortion. Police believe he ordered the execution of crime boss Themis Kalapotharakos in July 2000, during a spate of gangland killings.