NEWS

Piraeus extortionists cornered

A major ring of extortionists and drug dealers which have been terrorizing Piraeus is close to being broken, police sources have told Kathimerini, noting that 22 arrest warrants for suspected ring members have been issued. Those implicated in the Piraeus crackdown include former members of two rival groups of protection-racket gangsters who have joined forces over the past two years, police said. A prosecutor issued the warrants on the basis of evidence gathered over the past few months by officers of Attica’s specialist extortion unit. Police believe that by «cleaning up the area of Piraeus,» as a source put it, they will deal a powerful blow to extortionist rings. Indeed, some believe this case could be the biggest breakthrough since the summer of 2002, when arrest warrants were issued against 40 suspected members of Attica’s underworld. According to the same sources, the charges include one relating to the murder, about a year ago, of an individual involved in various extortion circles. Several other charges for attempted manslaughter had been attributed by police to the war between extortion rings for the control of nightclubs, but it is only recently that officers have acquired evidence to implicate specific individuals. Other charges relate to cocaine trading – not imports of large quantities of the drug into Greece but the distribution of smaller hauls. Police believe these charges could throw more light on the relationship between domestic extortion groups and organized crime rings smuggling cocaine into Greece. The cocaine trade had been the reason why two major extortion rings had gone to war in the summer of 2000. Since then, there had been no evidence that extortion rings had been active in the drugs trade.