Policemen under scrutiny

Officers from the police’s internal affairs department have begun questioning a policeman to whom reference was made in telephone conversations between suspected members of a large criminal gang, sources said yesterday, as the government defended its decision to change the head of the intelligence service, which contributed to the ring being smashed. Telephone conversations between the members of the gang that is alleged to have kidnapped ferry tycoon Pericles Panagopoulos were recorded by the National Intelligence Service (EYP). During those conversations, a number of police officers were either mentioned by name or referred to in enough detail to make it clear who they were. This evidence is now being used to question officers about their possible links with the gang, which was allegedly led by convict Panayiotis Vlastos and businessman Giorgos Tromboukis. In one communication between the two men, they allegedly discussed a high-ranking policeman who, they claimed, had asked for money to help an associate of theirs. One officer from the police’s narcotics division has already been taken into custody after it was revealed that he had close contact with one of the suspected members of the gang, Apostolos Petrakis. The two had worked together as bodyguards for a businessman and during questioning the officer revealed that Petrakis had told him he worked for convict Vassilis Stefanakos, another suspected member of the gang. A policeman at Kalabaka police station has been suspended after recommending to prison authorities that they grant Vlastos a five-day furlough as he had «regretted many of his actions.» Meanwhile, the government rejected criticism from the main opposition PASOK party, which claimed that the former EYP chief, Yiannis Korantis, had been replaced by prosecutor Dimitris Papangelopoulos to give the ruling conservatives closer control over the service. The government insisted that after years of investigating domestic terrorism Papangelopoulos was in a position to guide EYP in its battle against urban guerrillas and criminal gangs.