NEWS

Kidnappers get $1 mln in ransom

Police were searching yesterday for members of a gang that kidnapped the son of a Piraeus businessman and kept him blindfolded and handcuffed for two months until the father paid them a ransom of $1.15 million. Ioannis Zonas, 34, was released unharmed in a field at Pallini, near the Athens airport, late on Tuesday, a day after the ransom was paid. The duration of the victim’s captivity and the amount of the ransom were unprecedented in Greece. Costas Zonas, who owns a water pump factory in Piraeus, had informed police of the kidnapping and they acceded to his wish to stay out of the way, according to the kidnappers’ demand. The kidnapped man told police that he was driving home from the factory on October 2 when another car bumped his on a side road off Petros Rallis Avenue. He got out to examine the damage and two men attacked him, bundling him into their van, placing a hood over his head and handcuffing him. He was driven around for about 90 minutes before being taken to a house, where he was kept until his release. A man who faked a broken Greek accent (but who was described as having a rich vocabulary) spoke with the father 20 times, agreeing to lower an initial demand of 1 billion drachmas (about $2.6 million) to the $1.15 million in dollars. From Friday to Monday the kidnappers instructed the father to drive out with the ransom money each day, keeping in touch with mobile phones whose cards they would discard after each call in order not to be traced. On Monday they finally instructed Costas Zonas to drop off the money under a bridge. The victim said he had been fed only sandwiches during his captivity. He had been allowed to speak with his father three times. A team of police officers, negotiators and psychologists was in touch with the family all during its ordeal, advising them on how to handle the situation. Police suspicions are now focused on people who worked at the Zonas’s factory or knew them socially. The PM called for closer cooperation between European Union members to guard EU borders, proposing the creation of a special force of border guards. We are also working to create a means of funding the repatriation of illegal immigrants arrested while slipping into the country, he said.