Attica land grab revealed

An anonymous letter to authorities has led to five people being charged in a case involving one of the biggest land grabs seen in Greece that reportedly resulted in some 20,000 hectares of land being misappropriated in eastern Attica, sources told Kathimerini yesterday. Two men, a retired air force officer and a businessman, are thought to have launched the illicit scheme in the 1960s to take over the land, some of which belonged to the Church of Greece and other parts were forested. The retired officer used forged documents supposedly dating back to 1870 to claim the land and then sell plots. He was later jailed for land-grabbing and before dying in 1976 he transferred the rights to the land to the businessman. He too was arrested and died in jail in February while serving a 15-year sentence. However, according to sources, this did not prevent a group of five people from continuing to trade the land in question using allegedly forged documents. The five people who have been charged are two notaries, two lawyers and another man. Authorities suspect that they began colluding in 2004 to sell the illegally acquired land. A prosecutor investigating the case told Kathimerini on condition of anonymity that the five had been charged with forming an unlawful gang, forgery, defrauding the Greek state, the Church of Greece, the courts and private citizens. All notaries have been instructed not to draw up any contracts for the land in question. The misappropriation of land is not uncommon in Greece. It is estimated that about 350,000 hectares of land have been grabbed by developers and farmers to be sold as plots or used to plant crops. It is also estimated that there are 1.7 million buildings in Greece that have been constructed on illegally acquired land or erected without a permit.