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Greek Debt Scamster Sorras Joins Get-Out-of-Jail Club

Ευρωκίνηση

Poster depicting Artemis Sorras. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Sotiris Dimitropoulos)

ATHENS – After serving only 27 months of a six year jail sentence after being convicted of scamming countless Greeks out of money while claiming to be a billionaire who'd pay their debts – and Greece's – Artemis Sorras was released from jail, the latest high-profile inmate to leave confinement early.

His release was approved by a judicial council which accepted his petition to get out but it wasn't explained on what grounds nor why he didn't have to serve the full sentence for his crime.

The council imposed restrictions on his movement but it wasn't detailed whether he would have to wear an electronic bracelet nor what was permissible or why he wouldn't be able to travel freely since he had served his time.

Sorras, the founder of the ultranationalist fringe group Convention of Greeks, was convicted in December 2019 for attempting to defraud the state of billions of euros by claiming to be able to pay off the country’s national debt in exchange for low-rate returns and bonds as collateral.

He had also spent 18 months in pretrial detention after being a fugitive after officials said he defrauded people with his scheme in which he encouraged not to pay their taxes because he would.

It wasn't clear how much money was lost to the state although Kathimerini said tax officials have found thousands of so-called “Sorras Payment Slips” at tax offices and may have evaded paying or being prosecuted.

Sorras said he had 600 billion euros ($711.4 billion) in post WWI-era bonds and would pay off the debts of Greece and all Greeks – but charged members of his Greek Assembly 20 euros ($23.71) to join his group.

The sentence against Sorras, 53, who is idolized by the people he scammed, was handed down by a three-justice Appellate court, ending a long-running saga during which he was a fugitive before being caught early in 2018 in hiding.

Another 22 co-defendants were acquitted, either by a unanimous decision or in 2-1 decisions.  He had purchased the worthless bonds, that were issued by Anatolia Bank in the 1920's at a flea market and convinced followers they were legitimate before bilking them.

Some reports said Sorras at one time told supporters the bonds corresponded to payment by the US government for a fuel technology developed in ancient Greece, and subsequently "rediscovered" in the late 20th Century and they believed that story.

At a previous court appearance hundreds of supporters who still believed in him paraded outside to defend him although he hadn't paid off their debt.

 He was also charged with running a criminal organization, money laundering, spreading false rumors and incitement.