Publisher faces blackmail trial

An Athens prosecutor yesterday sought the indictment of far-rightist publisher Grigoris Michalopoulos on criminal charges of blackmail for allegedly telling businessmen and a top churchman they were November 17 terrorism targets and demanding up to 290,000 euros to get them off the hit list. Michalopoulos, 65, who owns the Eleftheri Ora newspaper, was arrested in June after a series of businessmen – including the husband of Athens 2004 organizing committee president Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki – came forward to testify that he had tried to blackmail them. Three bishops also testified against Michalopoulos, who was freed on bail in October due to poor health. Yesterday, prosecutor Panayiotis Panayiotopoulos recommended to a council of judges that Michalopoulos should be tried by a three-judge appeals court for extortion, attempted extortion and forgery. But he ruled out any actual link between the publisher and the far-left terror group. According to Panayiotopoulos, in 1998 Michalopoulos approached the then husband of Marianna Latsis – daughter of the late tycoon John Latsis – and demanded 3 million drachmas (8,800 euros) to get her off the supposed N17 hit list. Using the would-be N17 threat, he allegedly sought 65 million drachmas (190,000 euros) from industrialist Theodoros Angelopoulos – claiming his wife and children were in danger – 100 million drachmas (293,000 euros) from businessman Argyris Saliarelis, and undisclosed sums from Chrysostomos, Bishop of Zakynthos. Michalopoulos also allegedly printed defamatory articles in his newspaper against John Latsis and his family, demanding cash payments to desist. All the victims were allegedly told the money was needed to cover Eleftheri Ora’s expenses.

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