Nine quizzed over extortion

Nine suspects faced a Piraeus magistrate yesterday on charges of being involved in an extensive nightclub extortion ring after a major police operation in which another seven people are being sought. The men, along with another suspect yet to face charges, were arrested in raids by officers which began on Wednesday. A prosecutor issued warrants for the arrest of 17 people after a lengthy police investigation identified some 36 suspects who were believed to be linked to a nightclub protection racket responsible for blackmail and a series of explosions, mainly in Piraeus. The 17 suspects, seven of whom are still being sought, are believed to have been the criminals left over from a turf war between gangs during the summer of 2000 and another major police swoop in the summer of 2002, when 40 people were targeted. The testimony of a woman who was close to a criminal figure murdered some 12 months ago was vital to the the building of a case against the 36 suspects, sources said.

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