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Greek shipping tycoon abducted by armed men

By Reuters
A Greek shipping tycoon was kidnapped at gunpoint near his home in the coastal suburbs of Athens on Monday, in the third such high-profile abduction in Greece since June, police said.

Pericles Panagopoulos, founder of Greek ferry operator Superfast Ferries, was snatched from his car by three armed men during the short drive from his home to his office in the coastal suburb of Kavouri. No-one was injured in the incident.

Panagopoulos, 74, and his driver were handcuffed and bundled into a waiting van. The driver was later released in Koropi, a town northeast of Athens close to the international airport.

The kidnapping, which comes amid the suspected re-emergence of left-wing guerrilla group Revolutionary Struggle, was being investigated by anti-terrorist police, but a spokesman said it was believed to be the work of a criminal gang seeking a ransom.

"There is no evidence as yet to show that this was carried out by anything more than common criminals," police spokesman Panagiotis Stathis told Reuters.

Police found a burned van and a car believed to belong to the abductors at a rubbish dump close to where the driver was abandoned.

Authorities appealed to the kidnappers to treat Panagopoulos respectfully because of his fragile health.

"I hope, not just as the spokesman of the Greek government but also as a Greek citizen, that the ordeal of this man who has serious health problems will have a good outcome," government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros told a news conference.

Superfast Ferries, which operates mainly routes between Greece and Italy, is a subsidiary of Greece's largest ferry operator Attica Holdings. Attica shares were 5.78 percent lower on Monday amid speculation of a plan to delist the stock, brokers said.

In June, the chief executive of aluminium company Alumil  and chairman of the Federation of Industries in the northern city of Thessaloniki, George Milonas, was kidnapped before being released two weeks later after a ransom was paid.

Police arrested Greece's most wanted fugitive, Vassilis Palaiokostas, in August for Milonas' kidnapping. He escaped from prison in 2006, where he was serving a sentence for robbery and kidnapping.

Last month, a well-known Athens doctor was also kidnapped but has yet to be found. Police are investigating links between that crime and Monday's abduction, after witnesses identified similarities in the appearance of the kidnappers.

In December, Greece was rocked by the worst riots in decades following the police shooting of a teenager. A policeman was shot and seriously wounded by unknown assailants last week and police sources say ballistic evidence links the shooting to Revolutionary Struggle.