ATHENS – While most of the former leaders of the disintegrated neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party languish in jail after being convicted of running a criminal gang, the former second-in-command, Christos Pappas, is in hiding somewhere.
An embarrassment to the New Democracy government and judicial system which didn't require the convicts to be in court for sentencing, Pappas went on the lam after the court delivered the sentences in October, 2020.
There have been various conflicting reports on where he could be as police have been unable to track him down after he ran to avoid a 13-year sentence but the news site VICE said theories have been offered up involving radical monks, far-right cops, and a convicted war criminal.
Adding to the chagrin, another member of the gang, Ioannis Lagos, is a Member of the European Parliament and won't leave Brussels where he's still pulling down his monthly salary of 9,000 euros ($10,848) with fellow lawmakers making no move to strip him of immunity to be returned to Greece.
“For civil society, immigrants, and Greece’s committed leftist community that had all been targeted by Golden Dawn’s violence, Pappas’ disappearance is a rude twist to what could have been a reasonably happy ending, and fast becoming a stain on Greece’s international reputation,” the report said.
Vice said there's worry that Pappas escaped justice with the help of the Greek security services, radical elements in the Orthodox Church, and a convicted Serbian war criminal, Golden Dawn also having had ties to sympathizers among Greek police.
Greek authorities continue to insist he's in the country and will be found but VICE said that it was told that's just a ruse, citing unnamed security officials and regional intelligence officers who have worked Balkans war crime cases.
“Starting to understand why we figure Pappas won’t get caught?” an Athens resident not identified told the site. “At home these guys are protected by the government but they can travel because they have lots of friends in the Balkans.”
A central European intelligence official who works in counter-intelligence in the Balkans – also not named – was just as blunt.
“The Golden Dawn guy? We think that crazy [expletive] Serb cult got him out,” he said. “Yeah (Golden Dawn) has close ties to the security services but in a case like this he can’t hide forever because most of the cops in Greece are actually looking for him,” he added.
“If they haven’t arrested him in some filthy monastery in Greece within a few weeks, he’s probably with ultra-right Serbs who got him out,” he added. “He’s got ties to Šešelj and the Serbs going back to the Balkan wars, check out the Greeks at Srebrenica.”
The monastery reference was said to come from Greek media reports in which a church official said he believed that Pappas was given shelter at the Esphigmenou Monastery on Mt Athos, run by renegade monks.
“When I heard that Pappas had disappeared, my first thought was they have him in the monastery. I don’t know if they have investigated, but the police would have a hard time trying to search the monastery, which they have turned into a fortress,” Abbot Vartholomaios of Esphigmenou Chapter of Mt Athos told the Greek newspaper Kathimerini.
Greek police said that wasn't true but it added to the mystery of where Pappas might be, or if he's hiding out in the country, as had former leaders of the notorious Nov. 17 radical leftist terrorist gang and other terrorists.
Police did raid the monastery in February and a police official who didn't want to be identified told the site that it's believed Pappas had used the area as a hideout after he went missing following his last October check-in with police before he was due to be jailed.
“If he wasn’t there himself, it was being used by the people helping him hide and we have information Athos was part of the journey out of the country into Serbia or Kosovo,” said the Greek police official, who pointed to an international arrest warrant issued by Greece.
“We will of course look for him with any lead here in Greece,” said the official. “But I think that’s only if he comes back. He’s being hidden by his Serb friends.”