Gold-Smuggling Suspects Begin Testimony

Richardo Mylonas, main suspect and purported head of the gold-smuggling gangs

The sixty-three men arrested on charges of illegally smuggling gold out of the country will present their testimony to the examining magistrate beginning on Friday in Athens.

The process is expected to continue through to Sunday, with the extremely large number of suspects split up into groups.

Scheduled to testify on Friday is Richardo Mylonas, the most widely known of the 63 suspects, the owner of a chain of eighty pawn shops throughout Greece. Mylonas had also starred in his own television advertisements, selling jewelry under the name of ”Richardos”.

According to his lawyer, Alexis Kougias, he denies all the charges and claims his activities are entirely legal, and he will ask for an extension until Sunday to prepare his statement.

The alleged members of the two gangs involved face serious criminal charges, including four felonies. They will have to answer to charges made by the Hellenic police after a lengthy surveillance operation which lasted for many months.

Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras referred to the issue in Parliament, alleging that the accused gangs exploited tens of thousands of Greeks over the first few years of the financial crisis.

The charges against them include forming a criminal organization, smuggling, money laundering and usury. They also face misdemeanor charges of violating drug laws, weapons law, fencing of property, and forgery.

The 51-year-old pawnshop owner is accused of collecting large quantities of gold from his own and other pawn shops and then smuggling it to Turkey and other countries, bypassing capital controls in the process.

A prominent goldsmith also played a crucial role in a second gang, which also involved other pawn shop owners, foreigners and known criminals.

With information from A.M.N.A.