Case against gold trading racket collapsing
A criminal case against a racket trading in large quantities of gold appeared set to collapse yesterday after an investigating magistrate tasked with grilling the suspects determined that there are no grounds for smuggling charges.
Eight people, including a Greek pawn shop owner believed to have run the racket, were remanded in custody over the weekend after judicial authorities lodged smuggling charges against them. However, their release was believed to be just a matter of time yesterday after one of the suspects’ lawyers, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, appealed to the magistrate for the case to be dropped, claiming that the smuggling charges do not stand.
The magistrate, and prosecutors, subsequently checked in with the Finance Ministry on the provisions of Law No. 2960 on smuggling and determined that the export of gold to Turkey does not carry duties or tariffs.
In response to a query lodged by the investigating magistrate, a Justice Ministry body stated the same thing, noting that the only possible offenses in such a case would be lesser violations of customs laws.
In the current investigation, neither police nor judicial authorities applied for a certificate from customs authorities to indicate that any violations had been carried out.
The oversight prompted the criticism of defense lawyers, with some accusing the judiciary and the police of a “fiasco” and others claiming that the case was a “setup.”
Meanwhile, as Alexis Kougias, lawyer of the prime suspect Richardos Mylonas, called for his client’s immediate release from pretrial custody, the magistrate wrote to a prosecutor saying that “there are no longer reasons for their temporary detention.”
According to a judicial investigation, the racket melted and recast gold gathered from a network of pawn shops in Greece before loading it onto tour buses and transporting it to Turkey. Authorities are now expected to review the case file before seeking to prosecute on other charges.