NEWS

Piraeus cocaine chase leads to Zurich prison

Four people have been arrested in connection with last month’s seizure in Piraeus of 220 kilos of Colombian cocaine, which is believed to have been masterminded by a convict in Switzerland, police said yesterday. The drugs were found in mid-December in a cargo container of rice on the Iconio docks, southwest of the main harbor. After three weeks of surveillance proved fruitless, the drugs were seized on January 8. It was one of the largest cocaine hauls in the past 10 years. It has now emerged that the shipment, apparently headed for Italy, was organized by Paul Varidel, 55, a Swiss businessman imprisoned in Zurich – under a regime which allows him out in the mornings – for drug smuggling and money laundering. Police have arrested his Greek wife, Maria Romadzi, 53, and their son Errikos, 20, for carrying out the plan, along with Panayiotis Metaxas, 41, and a port authority driver who had allegedly agreed to smuggle the container out of the docks.Another five people are being sought. Police have alerted consumers to the danger of counterfeiters releasing large quantities of forged 10, 20 and 50-euro notes, as these are the most frequently used in everyday transactions.Large quantities of forged drachmas are in circulation.