DNA exposes abductors

Police said yesterday that DNA evidence had linked two members of a violent underworld gang, broken over the weekend, to the kidnapping in January of ferry firm owner Pericles Panagopoulos. Forensic tests revealed traces of the sweat of Apostolos Petrakis and Haralambos Moustakas on the shoes that the 74-year-old shipowner was wearing when he was abducted and on an envelope into which his kidnappers had inserted a DVD with a voice recording to prove to his family that he was still alive. Forensic testing is still under way to determine the role played, if any, by the remaining 16 suspects in the kidnapping of Panagopoulos, 15 of whom are in custody. Meanwhile, prison authorities were looking into the problem of the illegal use of cell phones in prison after it emerged that the shipowner’s abduction had been planned by prison inmates. A top-ranking police officer told Kathimerini yesterday that the force had now turned its attention to tracing the hideout used by the abductors and the multimillion-euro ransom they pocketed before releasing their hostage. «If we had continued to observe the suspects, we would have eventually traced the fate of the ransom money but we went ahead with the arrests to stop the ring members from carrying out any more contract killings,» the officer said. Police believe that most of the ransom money has not been spent and are investigating certain «suspicious» deposits in the accounts of some of those charged over the weekend. Another of the suspects, Giorgos Tromboukis, the owner of a firm selling bulldozers, is alleged to have attempted, unsuccessfully, to launder some 10 million euros. Another suspect, Ioannis Thodis, allegedly admitted to dropping off four bags filled with cash near the premises of Tromboukis’s firm, on the latter’s orders. Officers believe that this cash eventually made its way back to Panayiotis Vlastos, a convict serving time for murder and racketeering in Trikala Prison, who is believed to have been the mastermind behind the ring’s activities, including Panagopoulos’s kidnapping, probably via Vlastos’s wife Ioanna.