NEWS

Three guilty of Mevgal blackmail

A long-running blackmail case came to a close yesterday when a court in Athens found former Competition Commission official Panayiotis Adamopoulos, merchant Constantinos Constantinidis and customs official Panayiotis Anagnostopoulos guilty of attempting to extort money from the Mevgal dairy firm. The three men were remanded in custody in September 2006 after being accused of colluding to secure a 2.5-million-euro bribe from Mevgal so the Competition Commission would not fine the company for price fixing. The court accepted the recommendation by the prosecutor that the three be found guilty of attempted rather than actual blackmail and as a result they were each given a reduced jail sentence of five-and-a-half years. Adamopoulos was also found guilty of accepting a bribe, while Constantinidis and Anagnostopoulos were deemed to be accessories. The three were released pending appeal but were asked to post 10,000 euros apiece in bail. However, the judge turned down a request by the defendants to be allowed more time to raise the money and were returned to custody until they could gather the funds. «The court’s verdict justifies Mevgal’s decision to report the blackmail to authorities and to work with them,» said the dairy firm’s lawyer Ilias Anagnostopoulos. Just over a year after the three defendants were arrested, the Competition Commission fined seven dairy companies, including Mevgal, some 50 million euros for forming a cartel to fix milk prices.