Tycoon freed after record ransom paid

Elderly shipping magnate Pericles Panagopoulos, abducted by gunmen eight days ago, was released unharmed early yesterday by his kidnappers, who are believed to have pocketed a ransom of 30 million euros. Police found the 74-year-old in a remote spot of Aspropyrgos, west of Athens, after the kidnappers telephoned his wife to reveal his location. Panagopoulos had been transported to Aspropyrgos in the trunk of his kidnappers’ car, police said. Looking thin but composed, the founder of Attica Holdings told reporters that his abductors had been «decent and polite,» adding that they had provided him with the medicine he needed for his ailments. He said he felt well but «a bit dazed.» Panagopoulos gave no details about where he had been held. «You will find out when we do,» he told reporters. According to sources, Panagopoulos told police that the kidnappers’ hideout was about an hour from Koropi, east of Athens, where his driver had been abandoned following the kidnapping on January 12. He said he had been taken up some stairs in a building whose windows were boarded up and kept in a room where he was allowed to watch television. He said several different kidnappers, all dressed alike, visited him two at a time. Police did not confirm reports that a 30-million-euro ransom had been paid to the kidnappers but said the sum is the largest to have been paid in a kidnapping case in the country. Sources told Kathimerini that the ransom was delivered to the kidnappers in eight suitcases weighing a total of 300 kilos. Police, who believe the kidnappers are professionals, have said they will intensify their investigation now that Panagopoulos is safe. Officers are scrutinizing cell phone records to check for any calls made in the area of Panagopoulos’s home in the coastal suburb of Kavouri before or after his kidnapping. In a related development yesterday, police in Thessaloniki said they had arrested two Albanians, aged 23 and 25, in connection with the abduction last October of 59-year-old businessman Giorgos Aivatzoglou who was released soon after being taken. Officers said they traced the suspected perpetrators through the cell phone used in negotiations with the businessman’s family. The kidnappers demanded 400,000 euros but released Aivatzoglou after taking 13,000 euros in cash the businessman had on him at the time of the abduction.

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