NEWS

Italians may hold on to Vavilis

Apostolos Vavilis, the fugitive drug dealer who was close to top Greek Church officials, is to be jailed in Italy where he has a previous narcotics conviction, an Italian prosecutor said yesterday. Italian police arrested Vavilis on Friday afternoon in Bologna, after he was tracked there by Greek officers who had monitored his e-mail and credit card use. Although Athens is to request his extradition – Vavilis has been charged in Greece with forging identity papers and is under investigation for money laundering – Bologna prosecutor Lucia Musti was quoted by an Athens News Agency report as saying yesterday he would be jailed in Venice within the next three weeks. She added that Greek prosecutors would be able to interrogate Vavilis in Italy. Vavilis has been linked with Church of Greece leader Archbishop Christodoulos, who wrote him letters of recommendation before and after his Greek drug conviction – a sentence that was suspended. Christodoulos also allegedly sent Vavilis to Jerusalem in 2001 to assist the election of Irenaios, the current patriarch. On Saturday, Greek Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras admitted that it could take some time for Greek justice to get its hands on Vavilis. «Sooner or later, he will appear before the Greek justice system,» he said. «But there is an outstanding conviction from an Italian court, and this may delay his extradition.» Meanwhile, on Saturday Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis, after a meeting with PM Costas Karamanlis, implied Italian police had been persuaded to catch Vavilis after their Greek colleagues arrested a couple of wanted Mafia suspects in Greece. «There was very intense activity on behalf of the Greek authorities, which led to corresponding activity from the Italians,» he said.