Greek growth industry: kidnapping

The latest kidnap victim, Panagopoulos, is said to be ill


For a nation founded on the concepts of democracy and civil order, Greece has been rocked by an unusual amount of violence lately. On Monday, prominent shipping tycoon Pericles Panagopoulos was abducted by three men wielding Kalashnikovs, the third such high-profile kidnapping since June.

Panagopoulos is the 74-year-old founder of Attica Group, Greece’s largest ferry company, and is said to be worth about $400 million. According to reports, he was snatched near his seaside home just outside of Athens as he was being driven to work, and forced into one of two waiting vans. Police say his driver, who was also abducted, was later found hooded and handcuffed to a bush in Koropi, a town 15 km away.

Kostas Panayiotopoulos, a spokesperson for the police, says the vans used in the abduction have been found close to where the driver was discovered. “They were both torched by the assailants,” he told reporters. There are rumours the kidnappers told the driver they wanted 40 million euros for Panagopoulos’s release, but this has not been confirmed. The shipping magnate’s family has yet to be contacted for ransom, and family members are concerned because Panagopoulos suffers from a serious health condition requiring daily medication.

According to Agence France-Presse, investigators have noticed similarities between this case and last month’s abduction of Epameinondas Gerasimopoulos, a prominent cardiologist from Athens who has yet to be released. Both cases follow the June kidnapping of industrialist Giorgos Mylonas, who was released unharmed after 13 days when his ransom (which may have been as high as $20 million) was paid.

The kidnappings only serve to add to the violence of ongoing street clashes over the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old boy by police in December. Masked youths and police are continuing to exchange firebombs, rocks and tear gas on the streets of Athens, and anti-government sentiment continues to rise.