Attorney: Fugitive Greek Banker Feared For His Life
BOSTON (AP) _ A Greek banking and publishing tycoon embroiled in a multimillion-dollar scandal that has rocked the Greek government fled his homeland in fear of his life, his lawyer says.
George Koskotas knew he probably would face extradition proceedings in the United States, but came here from Brazil for safety, Washington attorney Ron Liebman said at a bail hearing for Koskotas Friday.
The 34-year-old banker fled Greece on Nov. 6 after being indicted on five counts of fraud and embezzlement alleging he siphoned more than $135 million from the Bank of Crete, of which he was chairman.
″The facts under which Mr. Koskotas came here indicate that the very last place on earth Mr. Koskotas wants to leave is the United States,″ he said at the U.S. District Court hearing.
″Mr. Koskotas, in imminent fear of his life, came to the one place in this world where he felt that he and his family would be safe from murder,″ Liebman said.
But U.S. Magistrate Joyce Alexander denied bail after Assistant U.S. Attorney Victor A. Wild argued that bail should not be set in an extradition case and that any flight by Koskotas would have international repercussions.
Koskotas was being held in a federal facility in Massachusetts and a review hearing was tentatively set for Wednesday.
The scandal has embarrassed the government of Premier Andreas Papandreou and prompted the resignations of two government ministers.
Koskotas had been ordered to remain in Greece while officials investigated alleged irregularities at the Bank of Crete.
In Athens, Spyros Papadatos, temporary commissioner appointed by the Greek government to investigate the case, said in a report that Koskotas used bank money for $200 million in loans without collateral and gifts to soccer clubs, athletes, business associates, journalists and friends.
Koskotas was suspended Oct. 20 as chairman of Bank of Crete. He had acquired a controlling interest in the bank in 1984 after working in its central Athens branch for two years as an accountant. He also built a publishing empire and bought a controlling interest in a Athens soccer club.
Koskotas was arrested Wednesday night by FBI agents at Hanscom Field in Bedford, about 15 miles west of Boston, after he arrived in a private jet. The arrest was made after the Justice Department received information from Greek authorities, department spokesman Thomas Stewart said in Washington.