Police break huge extortion rackets

Police in Athens said on Thursday that they had broken four criminal rings whose suspected members include police officers and a popular singer and which are believed to be behind the extortion of dozens of businesses in and around the capital as well as a robberies and attempted bomb attacks

Police said that a total of 217 people had been charged, 44 arrest warrants issued and 22 people brought in for questioning.

The suspects include a well-known female singer, seven police officers ? some currently employed and some retired ? and several civil servants including employees of the country?s central bank.

One of rings is said to have been behind a huge heist at a bank on the island of Alonissos last August and to have been planning to launder some 1 million euros in loot.

In a series of raids, officers confiscated bulletproof vests, stiletto knives, bugs, police batons, flares, dozens of cellphones and bank books containing details of large deposits.

The raids came after a two-year investigation during which police determined the modus operandi of the rings, believed to have been exacting ?protection money? from a total of 268 nightclubs and other businesses in the capital.

The investigation has reportedly revealed links between the four rings and other rackets in other Greek cities and produced a wealth of videos and photographs capturing some of the ring members? movements and transactions.

The suspects face a string of charges including extortion, money laundering, theft, fraud, forgery, and the possession and supply of weapons and explosives.