A 53-year-old local man who started a political movement in Greece based on the premise that he controlled up to 600 billion euros worth of post WWI-era bank bonds - enough to pay off the country’s external debts, and then some – was handed a six-year prison sentence on Friday.
Artemis Sorras, the founder of “Greeks Assembly”, was convicted of attempted fraud against the state by a three-justice appellate level court in Athens.
Another 22 co-defendants were acquitted, either by a unanimous decision or in 2-1 decisions.
Moreover, the court’s sentence was not suspended, meaning that Sorras was returned to a prison cell to serve out the term. He had been incarcerated for nearly the past 18 months awaiting trial, after having avoided arrest as a fugitive hiding out in the greater Athens area.
The worthless bonds, reportedly purchased by Sorras at a flea market, were issued by Anatolia Bank in the 1920s, before the latter was absorbed by the Greek state.
According to some media reports, Sorras at one time told supporters that 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.
His political movement charged 20 euros per membership, and at one time handed members pro forma statements of declaration, which the latter duly presented to Greek tax authorities in order to avoid - ostensibly - pay their tax arrears.