Two more remanded over prison extortion, murder racket

Another two suspected members of a huge extortion racket centered around convicted crime boss Panayiotis Vlastos were remanded in custody on Wednesday after defending themselves before an investigating magistrate.

One of the two is a lawyer who had represented Vlastos at one of his many criminal trials in 2012 but who claimed to have had no further dealings with the 42-year-old convict. The new detentions bring to four the number of suspects in custody after two people – a foreign national and the mother of a former fellow inmate of Vlastos – were remanded on Tuesday.

Several more suspected members of the racket, which is accused of a string of homicides and bomb attacks, have been given conditional release, including a police officer who admitted in his testimony on Wednesday that Vlastos sent a cell phone to his home.

A huge case file on the activities of the racket, which Vlastos is alleged to have run from inside Attica’s Korydallos Prison with the help of two other convicts, points to ties between the criminals and domestic terrorist groups.

The racket is also accused of planning contract killings against political and judicial targets but also against former accomplices who fell out of favor with Vlastos.

In a related development, the Greek Police is said to have lodged a request for information from its Italian counterparts, via Interpol, after Vlastos’s cousin allegedly claimed that the convict lost 4 million euros of the ransom collected for the abduction of shipowner Pericles Panagopoulos in an attempt to launder the cash with the help of members of a trial-fixing ring in Italy.

Vlastos’s cousin is in a police witness protection program.