Busiest-ever bank robbers caught

Police said yesterday they had smashed the most active gang of bank robbers in Greek history, after arresting three men in connection with 50 heists in Attica over the last two-and-a-half years which netted almost 1 million euros. Two of the alleged robbers, 35-year-old Panayiotis Vivilakis and Dimitris Magatas, 33, were picked up on Wednesday afternoon in the southern suburb of Neo Faliron after an armed robbery at a nearby branch of the Bank of Cyprus. A third suspect, Marios Peppas, 31, was arrested in Nikaia, a few kilometers away, the same evening. A woman, whose particulars have not been released, is also being sought by officers. The gang is alleged to have started its activities in September 2002 and is then thought to have robbed banks at a rate of almost two a month after being linked to 50 heists and two attempted attacks, during which they stole a total of some 900,000 euros. Officers say the men have confessed to the crimes. Although they targeted 12 different banks, branches of Eurobank proved the most popular for their forced cash withdrawals, with a total of 20 robberies. They are also suspected of having broken into the apartment of a police special guard in August 2003 and stealing his gun, service uniform and other equipment which, police say, they found in the men’s possession. The suspects also had, among other things, one submachine gun, two handguns, 370 shotgun cartridges, a bulletproof vest, various false identification papers and driver’s licenses, small amounts of heroin and cannabis and a radio receiver on them, according to officers. Officers say they had been on the trail of the gang for some time and Attica Police Chief Vassilis Tsiatouras said there had never been a case like it in Greek criminal history.