The trial for the much-praised case of the stolen icons and other relics from temples, monasteries and chapels in Epirus, mainly in Zagori, has started in the Three-Member Criminal Court of Appeal of Ioannina.
According to the board 83/2019 of the Board of Appeals of Ioannina, an archimandrite is sitting in the chair, who is currently abbot of a monastery, a priest, a hotelier from Trikala, a bookbinder with a second-hand shop in Monastiraki and two more. The archimandrite is accused of forming and directing a criminal organization and is said to be the leader of the circuit.
The governor of Epirus is one of the main witnesses, as well as many residents from the villages of Zagori, where most of the thefts with the largest of 67 icons were recorded, in 2009, from the Church of the Virgin in Koukouli.
The tangle began to unfold when an icon was found in a second-hand shop in Monastiraki and reached a gallery abroad, where icons from churches in Zagori and Pelion were found for sale. The governor Alexandros Kachrimanis presented to APE-MPE the events that led to the judicial development of the case. As he said, after the theft of the 67 icons from the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Koukouli, Zagori, on Christmas day 2009, the then mayor of Tymfi, G. Soukouvelos, informed him as prefect of Ioannina about the theft. A few days later, a meeting of local actors on the issue took place in Tsepelovo and Mr. Kachrimanis’ proposal to post photos of the stolen images on the internet was adopted.
The operation, according to the governor, did not take long to pave the way for the location of the stolen religious relics. One month later, on January 30, 2010, the photo studio of an image arrived at his office, which was in a second-hand shop in Monastiraki. “It was the first indication that they had entered the market”, he adds characteristically. The next day -as he says- he was in Monastiraki and after 5 hours of searching in the second-hand shops, he located her. The second-hand seller claimed that the image belongs to the collection of a hotelier from Trikala, who is one of the 6 accused in the case.
In 2011, stolen icons from the Temples of Zagori were found in a London gallery. Later, other relics were found in Amsterdam and Düsseldorf. The way of investigations was opened and all the cases came in 2015 to the Prosecutor’s Office of Ioannina.