Greek police have announced they have arrested 63 people accused of running a major gold smuggling operation, using a network of pawn shops that rapidly expanded during the country's financial crisis.
Police managed to seize cash, gold bars, jewels, and other valuable items worth an estimated 2 million euros ($2.3 million). The suspects allegedly exported much of the gold to Turkey for melting and recasting gold and using tour buses to transport it without paying taxes.
Police said two separate criminal networks that were working together were involved in the operation for at least two years.
Among those arrested was well-known Greek pawnbroker Richardos Mylonas who also sells jewellery through a telemarketing operation aired on television, with his call to anyone who wanted to pawn any valuable item for “the best cash price” became a standard feature on people’s TV screens.
Richardos, his first name and the name of his shops, has a high profile on social media and hosted various TV programmes as a successful businessman and owner of the largest pawnbroker chain.
According to authorities, Richardos was the leader of a criminal gang in which his close accomplice was a Turkish citizen. The gang also included other gold dealers and jewellers and had links with a second criminal gang.