Blow dealt to extortion ring

Police in northern Greece said Tuesday that they had arrested 28 suspected members of a large crime ring run by ethnic Greeks from Georgia and Russia following an 18-month investigation.

The suspects, all aged between 20 and 35, face charges of blackmail, attempted murder, grievous bodily harm, usury and money laundering.

Based in Thessaloniki, the ring?s tentacles are said to have stretched across Greece while members sent back large sums of money to ring bosses based in Georgia, police said.

According to Thessaloniki Security Police Chief Athinagoras Pazarlis, more than 50 entrepreneurs have fallen victim to the ring that is believed to have netted at least half a million euros from its illicit activities, exacting 300 euros a week from street kiosks and much larger sums from nightclubs.

A police operation involving 220 officers culminated in raids on 31 homes, leading to the confiscation of some 300,000 euros in various currencies and several weapons.

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