The head of just one of the extortion rackets mentioned in the latest issue of the Attica Security Police report on the issue has a record of complicity in two murders. His gang – comprising about 20 people, mostly Greeks – controls businesses in parts of Piraeus, Kallithea and the coast as far as Nea Makri and Porto Rafti, according to the report. Citing the names of some of the gangs’ members, the report details the specific crimes each has been charged with. The long list includes blackmail, illegally bearing arms, intending to cause serious bodily harm, concealing a criminal and money laundering. The lengthy report is updated regularly with new evidence as it emerges – murders within gangs and of members of other gangs, changes in «market shares» and changing alliances between groups are all recorded by officials who have been trying to break these rackets for years. Each of the 13 extortionist rackets active at the moment in Attica are detailed in the report, right down to their family members, places of birth, addresses, cases they have been involved in, and the crimes for which they have been arrested and/or convicted. They are like a Hydra’s head – when one gang is decimated, another appears to fill the gap. Sometimes two or three new groups emerge when a larger one is broken up, usually following the death of its leader. The recent discovery that fugitive Vassilis Stefanakos had managed to have a new identity card issued at a police station – a crime for which two police officers are now facing trial – shows just how deep the level of corruption goes and how it can prevent progress in the war on extortion rackets that have in recent years expanded their brief to cover drug dealing, trafficking in women, contraband cigarettes and alcohol, and even fuel. Apart from the two police officers mentioned above, other officers have faced charges over involvement with Stefanakos and many more are under suspicion and have been moved to secondary services in an attempt to undermine Stefanakos’s contacts within the force. And that case is just one example of many. Dozens of police operations against protection rackets planned chiefly with the element of surprise in mind have failed due to leaks from within the force. The leaders of these gangs now appear to be mostly businessmen who set up firms for the purpose of money laundering. According to a senior police official, it is very difficult to find incriminating evidence against them since they themselves don’t usually take an active part. Most charges against them are based on witness depositions, which are often withdrawn out of fear by the time the case goes to trial.