Police dismantle jeweler abduction gang

Police on Wednesday claimed to have nabbed a gang in western Attica believed to have kidnapped jewelry merchants, or members of their family, before demanding a ransom for their release.

A police statement said that in cooperation with Greece?s National Intelligence Service (EYP), the force had arrested nine suspects in Athens and Aspropyrgos, west of the capital, in connection with the abductions.

The gang — which included seven Greeks and two Albanians aged between 29 and 35 years old — carried out at least five kidnappings in the past seven months, extracting more than 300,000 euros in cash, 20 kilos of gold and large amounts of jewelry.

The suspects would confront their targets at gunpoint, usually outside the victims? homes, put a bag over their head and then drive them to an undisclosed location. They would subsequently contact their relatives and demand money or gold to set them free.

In one of the attacks described in the police statement, dated December 23 last year, two suspects wearing full-face cloth masks stopped a vehicle driven by an unnamed 71-year-old jewelry trader. They broke the car windows and, while pointing a gun at him, pulled a bag over his head. They then tied his hands with duct tape and put him inside the trunk of his car. After driving him to a warehouse somewhere in western Attica, they called his relatives and threatened to kill him unless they received a ransom in the form of jewelry. The 71-year-old was released near Aspropyrgos the morning after the kidnappers had received part of the ransom.

Jewelry shops have become a common target for Greece?s criminal gangs over the past few months. Prompted by the growing number of cash-strapped Greeks seeking to sell jewelry and family heirlooms to raise cash to pay bills and other expenses, many jewelry stores have been offering pawn services. The result is they have more valuables in stock.

During the police crackdown, officers seized an undisclosed amount of cash, mobile phones and SIM cards, bullets, and a handwritten note outlining each suspect?s share of the loot following their most recent abduction.

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