Gov’t hails Exarchia crack­down

Min­is­ter says elim­i­na­tion of lo­cal drug racket is the big­gest coup against crime in the area in 30 years

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

The gov­ern­ment hailed its crack­down on a large drug traf­fick­ing ring based in the cen­tral Athens district of Exarchia yes­ter­day, with Cit­i­zens’ Pro­tec­tion Min­is­ter Nikos Toskas de­scrib­ing it as the big­gest coup in the area in 30 years.

Re­fer­ring to the op­er­a­tion as “the prod­uct of sev­eral months of plan­ning and in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing,” Toskas in­di­cated that the gov­ern­ment was de­ter­mined to stamp out crime in the area, which has been the fo­cus of dis­putes be­tween po­lice, deal­ers and self-styled an­ar­chists for years.

His com­ments came a day af­ter a unit of 65 po­lice of­fi­cers con­ducted co­or­di­nated raids in the broader area of Exarchia, ar­rest­ing 14 sus­pected mem­bers of the drug racket. The sus­pects – four Greeks, nine Al­ba­ni­ans and one Pol­ish na­tional – are be­lieved to have had ac­tive roles in the racket’s op­er­a­tion. Some were re­spon­si­ble for the cut­ting, prepa­ra­tion and pack­ag­ing of the drugs, oth­ers for their stor­age and trade and oth­ers for han­dling rev­enue.

Raids on 10 apart­ments be­lieved to have been used as stor­age ar­eas for the drugs turned up 17.5 kilo­grams of cannabis and smaller amounts of co­caine, just a frac­tion of the nar­cotics han­dled by ring mem­bers. Po­lice also con­fis­cated 208 re­ceipts for win­ning lot­tery tick­ets worth 162,307 euros, ap­par­ently a method used by the ring mem­bers to laun­der their rev­enue.

Po­lice are con­tin­u­ing to seek sus­pected mem­bers of the racket, which is be­lieved to have op­er­ated like a busi­ness with mem­bers as­signed to spe­cific roles and part of a strict hi­er­ar­chy, work­ing shifts, and with drug sales car­ried out daily.

A high-rank­ing po­lice of­fi­cer told Kathimerini that drug deal­ers and an­ar­chists have been clash­ing in the area for over a decade, not­ing that the lat­ter tend to take the law into their hands “when they feel safer and stronger.”

Ad­dress­ing Par­lia­ment on Mon­day, Toskas said au­thor­i­ties would not tol­er­ate “a mil­i­tary or­der in Exarchia.” “The prob­lems have been cov­ered up for years,” he said. “We will have safety in so­ci­ety.”

Last Satur­day a new group called Armed Mili­tia Groups claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the ex­e­cu­tion-style mur­der of a 36-year-old Egyp­tian man in Exarchia on July 17. The vic­tim, known as Habib, is be­lieved to have been in­volved in a lo­cal drug racket.

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