Greek shipowner Victor Restis was arrested on charges of money laundering and embezzlement yesterday, becoming one of just a few prominent businessmen to be detained by police since Greece sank into crisis.
Mr Restis, who has a stake in Greece’s top-selling newspaper and other media as well as his shipping fleet, is being investigated over bad loans of up to €500 million at FBBbank, a troubled lender that was wound down this year, court officials said.
He has been accused of using his influence over the bank to secure a €5.8 million loan for companies with links to him, the officials said.
His family owned a majority stake in FBBbank, which had about €1.6 billion worth of assets before it was wound down, with its healthy assets absorbed by Greece’s top lender, National Bank.
Mr Restis denied any wrongdoing when he appeared before a prosecutor to be formally charged, court officials said. Calls to his company were not answered. His lawyer could not be reached for comment.
He will appear before a prosecutor on Friday, court officials said.
He was arrested outside his office in a northern suburb of Athens, a police official said. A Greek prosecutor has issued arrest warrants for two more suspects in the same case.
Rated number 56 on the Lloyd’s List top 100 influential people in shipping, Mr Restis has been active in sectors including the dry bulk, tanker and offshore markets, managing an estimated 80 to 85 vessels. “This comes as a major surprise to the shipping industry – he is a big player in the sector,” an industry official said.
Another prominent Greek businessman, Lavrentis Lavrentiadis, was jailed in December pending trial for involvement in a banking scandal. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Greece’s descent into a deep economic crisis has triggered public anger against a political and business elite widely viewed as privileged and corrupt, prompting prosecutors to step up investigations into corruption cases.
The shipping industry accounts for about 5 per cent of GDP. Greece’s wealthy shipowners, who control about 15 percent of the global fleet, have enjoyed favourable tax terms for decades, paying taxes on their ships’ tonnage instead of profits. – (Reuters)