Greek guru Kovas Panagiotis sentenced for fraud and blackmail

Bucharest Daily News/September 10, 2006
By Monica Bonea

Greek citizen Kovas Panagiotis, who was accused of fraud and blackmail for funding a religious movement through which he took money from his followers, was sentenced to 13 years in prison by a court panel in Athens.

Panagiotis, who claimed to be the reincarnation of Saint Paul, founded a movement in Romania, where he pretended he was gathering money for a religious magazine.

The Greek guru lived in the town of Spataru, Buzau County, between 1999 and 2004, when he was accused by the parents of three young Greeks for holding them against their will at his villa in Spataru.

Because there was no international arrest warrant against him until March 2005, Panagiotis was only arrested one year after the accusations launched against him. He was extradited to Greece in May last year.

He was accused of blackmailing the parents of the three youths who spent some time in his villa in Spataru. He asked for money from the three families, threatening they would never see their children again. Moreover, the parents claimed he was giving the young people drugs and that he had a negative influence on them. At the time, Panagiotis said the three were living with him on their own accord.

During the trial, the mother of two young followers said she gave Panagiotis 46,000 euros to let her sons out of the movement. The two said the guru forced them to stay within the religious movement and threatened them.

Panagiotis denied the charges and said the young people gave him the money willingly.

Panagiotis had been previously sentenced to prison in Greece for drug trafficking, and the Greek media compared him to controversial Romanian guru Gregorian Bivolaru, who was arrested in Romania for having sexual relations with a minor.

Bivolaru fled to Sweden, where he was given asylum.

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