ATHENS – The trial of a self-declared trillionaire who promised to pay off Greece’s debt and that of everyone in the country in what prosecutors said was a scam was postponed when he didn’t show up for his trial, 17 months after he was caught while hiding out as a fugitive.
There was no explanation why Artemis Sorras wasn’t already in detention or where he was with Kathimerini saying the trial was rescheduled for Nov. 18 with no word on whether he would show up for that either, a common tactic in Greece to delay trials.
Sorras and another 22 alleged members of his Convention of Greeks are accused of defrauding Greek citizens who they convinced to donate to the organization with pledges to erase their debts to the state. The trial was postponed to allow defense lawyers to look over the case file as well, said the paper.
After being caught in June, 2018, he was remanded in pending trial on criminal fraud charges but hundreds of his bilked supporters who believed he had enough money to pay their debts but needed donations from them showed up at the court to support him.
At the time it was reported that he would face charges of defrauding the state by urging nonpayment of taxes, running a criminal organization, money laundering, spreading false rumors and incitement.
Sorras founded the Convention of Greeks political group, claiming to have access to enough money in foreign bonds to cover Greece’s 326 billion-euro foreign debt ($360.77 billion) and he had a legion of believers even when he became a fugitive to avoid justice.
He had been sentenced in absentia eight years in prison for embezzlement when he didn’t show up for another trial either but the newspaper Kathimerini said it wasn’t clear if he was arrested for that or another crime.
Police sources said they had been tipped off to the fugitive’s whereabouts and had him under surveillance, the paper said, even though he had grown a beard to try to hide his identity and had built a kind of panic room in his house to evade capture.
In July, 2017, Greece’s Supreme Court overturned a 2013 ruling by an Athens misdemeanor court stating that he had the right to manage what turned out to be a fraudulent fund and acquitted him although acknowledging that he had scammed people.
Judges said the 2013 decision was not based on any substantiated evidence. The ruling bears no legal consequence on Sorras, though couldn’t invoke that earlier ruling anymore in his defense in which the lower essentially said he had the right to defraud people. He had been sentenced in March, 2017 in a court in Patra in western Greece.
Officials said his claims of having trillions of dollars was imaginary and designed to get money from people but he was allowed to keep scamming them until he vanished until being caught.