The Athens Prosecutor’s office has blocked a decision of the Corruption Investigating Magistrate Eleni Touloupaki to release from custody the owner of Greece’s largest pawn shop chain, Dimitris-Rihardos Mylonas, citing judicial precedents establishing restrictions on the export of gold.

It was Touloupaki herself who ordered that Mylonas be remanded in custody, but amazingly was subsequently was informed by a branch of the finance ministry that the tax-free export of gold is legal.

The “Rihardos” pawn shops reportedly had a daily turnover of 400,000 euros, and Mylonas was remanded in custody, after his arrest on 27 November.

Mylonas was one of 63 individuals arrested by Greek Police on 27 November on charges of gold smuggling, tax evasion, and money laundering. Eight, including Mylonas, were remanded in custody pending trial.

Subsequently the Finance Ministry’s Independent Authority for Public Revenues’ (AADE) Directorate of Customs responded to a question submitted by Touloupaki that there are no tariffs or VAT tax on the export of gold to Turkey or to other non-EU countries. The gold jewelry and objects were melted by the enterprise and sent to Istanbul.

The case proved an embarrassment for PM Alexis Tsipras, who in parliament erroneously accused the pawn shop owner of contraband gold trade.

“I am referring to a pawn shop chain all over Greece, the well-known Rihardos, which in the first years of the crisis had exploited tens of thousands of our fellow citizens who overnight saw their income shrinking, became unemployed and impoverished. In their desperation many of them tried to find even a temporary income, selling their valuables at low prices,” Tsipras said.

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