NEWS

New charges may boost Vavilis extradition bid

Greece upped its bid yesterday to secure the extradition from Italy of Apostolos Vavilis, a fugitive drug dealer who is thought to hold the answers to a series of shady deals involving the scandal-ridden Church of Greece, the police and foreign secret services. Athens prosecutor Dimitris Papangelopoulos pressed 13 supplementary charges against the 44-year-old Greek, who was arrested during a joint operation by Greek and Italian police in Bologna on April 22. Vavilis has already been formally accused of forgery and false impersonation. The new charges – six of which carry criminal convictions – include breach of state secrets, forgery, fraud, embezzlement, theft, perjury and defamation. These alleged offenses pertain to Vavilis’s relations with the scandal-mired Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem – he was sent there by the leader of the Church of Greece, Archbishop Christodoulos, in 2001 to help with the election of the now-deposed patriarch, Irenaios – his contacts with Israeli authorities, his dealings in Greece and Italy and his suspected contacts with foreign intelligence agencies. Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras voiced optimism yesterday that Italy will agree to extradite Vavilis – who has been imprisoned in Italy on the strength of an outstanding seven-year prison sentence for heroin smuggling. A Greek court has handed him 13 years for the same offense, a sentence that was suspended after police told judges Vavilis had given them important information on narcotics cases. «Apostolos Vavilis must be tried in Greece,» Papaligouras said. «The Italian government is aware of the problem, and I believe it understands the special interest our country has in that matter.»