One of the largest alleged extortion and loan-sharking rings was reportedly detected in Thessaloniki, police announced on Wednesday. The alleged “mastermind” of the criminal ring, that numbered a total of 22 suspects, was a 34-year-old man arrested in Athens. Authorities have arrested another eight individuals, including the former's 29-year-old wife and a lawyer. Charges have been filed against 13 individuals, including a man currently incarcerated in the Larissa prison serving time for manslaughter and extortion.

The ring was active in Thessaloniki, at least for the past five years, as well as in Athens, preying on nightclub owners who borrowed money with interest rates of up to 10 pct.
Police were led to the ring last September when a search was held in the house of the 34-year-old after charges were filed against him for using illegal force on a local businessman. The search revealed a dairy kept by the suspect that included names of businessmen and private loan agreements.

Indicative of the ring’s activities was the fact that in 2009 alone it lent more than 2.5 million euros.
The main suspect in the case has paid no taxes since 1995 and allegedly has lent the sum of 514,000 euros to Iraklis FC, a first division football club, in return for the control of the club's television rights.

The 34-year-old and his wife also allegedly engaged in money laundering by purchasing luxury cars, jewelry and real estate. The value of one of the six private houses they purchased is more than 4 million euros.