Police smash two extortion rings in Athens

The anti-extortion unit of the Greek police said on Tuesday that it had busted two gangs offering ?protection? to cafes and clubs across Attica with the arrest of 15 people, including the suspected gang leaders.

One of the racket leaders, identified only as T.K., is charged with heading a 10-member extortion ring controlling 36 bars in the ports of Loutsa and Rafina, the northern Athens suburbs of Maroussi and Metamorphosi and Kypseli, central Athens. T.K. had been charged and then exonerated over the murder of 44-year-old businessman Giorgos Nikolaidis and the latter?s 31-year-old partner Soula Kalathaki in 1997.

The head of the other ring, referred to only as ?The Turk,? is said to have worked with his brother overseeing the extortion of bars in Halandri, northeastern Athens, the northern suburb of Kifissia and Peristeri, western Athens. The suspects have been linked to usury and drugs and arms dealing and were traced after police counterterrorism officers wiretapped telephone conversations.