The police’s Internal Affairs Division for Northern Greece on Monday said that nine police officers are facing multiple charges over their alleged involvement in three criminal organizations with activities centered mainly in the region of Central Macedonia.
Charges are being brought against total of 147 suspects and 14 people have already been arrested, including three of the nine police officers who are implicated in the ongoing investigation.
According to the Hellenic Police (ELAS), the first of the three rackets traded in illegal antiquities and has carried out at least 70 unlicensed excavations, one of which was at a Bronze Age settlement in Toumba in the northern port city of Thessaloniki. The gang used with state-of-the art equipment and software to look for ancient coins and other gold or bronze objects. It also had several vehicles, though its members often used the squad car of one of the three arrested police officers to avoid suspicion when on an illegal digging operation, ELAS said.
Raids on properties in the suspects’ names during the months-long operation for dismantling this and the other two gangs uncovered a plethora of equipment and objects of archaeological interests, as well as unlicensed firearms, bank passbooks and cards, and nearly 21,000 euros in cash.
The second racket dealt in migrant smuggling, with two of the police officers playing a key part in making illegal travel documents appear legitimate – in exchange for a fee. Three foreign nationals have also been arrested for allegedly acting as mediators between migrants seeking to acquire papers allowing them to stay in Greece and/or travel to other countries in the European Union and the police officers.
In the last year alone, the three officers are suspected of having stamped at least 150 illegal passports for a fee ranging from 150 to 250 euros each. Searches led to the confiscation of 20,500 euros in cash, as well as 28 passports, several cellphones and a number of bank passbooks and cards.
One of the officers implicated in the antiquities racket and two of the police officers suspected for migrant smuggling are also believed to have been involved in the third criminal racket, which was involved in the illegal tobacco and cigarette trade.