Greek Shipowner Arrested
Greek shipowner and businessman, Victor Restis, was arrested outside his office in Athens on Tuesday on money laundering and embezzlement charges, according to Reuters.
Restis’ family owned the majority stake in small lender First Business Bank, which was absorbed by Greece’s top lender, National Bank, earlier this year. First Business had €1.6 billion in assets before the takeover.
Restis is being investigated for bad loans of up to $660 million. He is accused of using his influence at the bank to secure a $7.7 million loan for companies he had connections with.
The Greek economic crisis has provoked public outrage over what is perceived as a corrupt political and business elite, compelling prosecutors to take more aggressive action. Another Greek businessman Lavrentis Lavrentiadis was jailed in January prior to a trial for involvement in a banking scandal.
In addition to a shipping fleet, Restis has a stake in Greece’s top-selling newspaper and other media outlets. In Greece, the shipping industry accounts for 5 percent of GDP and shipowners have enjoyed favorable tax terms for years. The crisis has spurred criticism from the media and opposition party, unhappy that the industry has been avoiding its share of austerity and tax burdens now falling on the public.
Last week the government announced that 441 shipping companies will donate up to €140 million per year for three years to the state to help boost the economy.
Restis denies any wrongdoing and a statement released by Restis Group said the claims were “baseless.”