Officer accused of fraud, blackmail

The internal affairs division of the country’s police force is investigating claims that at least one officer abused and blackmailed foreign immigrants in the Victoria district of central Athens, Kathimerini has learned.

An immigrant of Pakistani origin has testified to the police that on February 22 and 25 a number of officers dressed in civilian attire physically abused him before driving him to the Aliens Bureau for an informal inquiry during which they demanded he tell them the whereabouts of a fellow witness in a separate case involving charges against a police officer.

The force is investigating whether the 39-year-old police officer was acting on his own, or if he was joined by a group of colleagues that have in the past been accused of carrying out attacks against foreigners motivated by financial gain or racist hatred.

Reports say the 39-year-old suspect habitually made critical remarks against Asian and African immigrants. Unconfirmed sources say he sold protection to street vendors on Patission Street against police raids in the neighborhood.

According to the charges that have been brought against him, the suspect extorted money from immigrants and occassionally forced them to smuggle contraband cigarettes for his benefit. The victims were told that if they failed to meet his requests, they would be arrested and deported from the country. Dozens of foreign passports were found at his home.

The Pakistani national also claims that in early November the 39-year-old suspect and another policeman invaded the house where he lived with other Pakistanis demanding 1,500 euros, saying that otherwise he would arrest any undocumented immigrants. The immigrant further claims he was briefly abducted to pressure the rest to come up with the money.

The police officer denies the charges. He says that the Pakistani used to work as an informer, helping him to net criminals involved in contraband cigarette trafficking. The accuser decided to turn against him, he says, after receiving threats from fellow Pakistanis in Athens. It was the same person, he alleges, that supplied the stolen documents discovered at his residence.

However, sources suggest that the documents were stolen by policemen who demanded money -- around 500 euros -- for their return. 

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