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Published: Tuesday December 3, 2013 MYT 10:40:02 PM
Updated: Tuesday December 3, 2013 MYT 10:41:13 PM

Greek shipowner released pending trial on embezzlement charges

Greek shipowner Victor Restis (C) leaves a court in Athens July 23, 2013. REUTERS/John Kolesidis

Greek shipowner Victor Restis (C) leaves a court in Athens July 23, 2013. REUTERS/John Kolesidis

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek shipowner Victor Restis has been conditionally released after spending four months in jail pending trial on money laundering and embezzlement charges, court officials said on Tuesday, .

Restis, one of only a few prominent businessmen to be jailed since Greece sank into crisis, is being investigated over bad loans at FBBank, a troubled lender that was wound down this year.

The businessman, who has a stake in Greece's top-selling newspaper and other media as well as a shipping fleet, has been accused of using his influence over the bank to secure a 5.8 million euro loan and bad loans for companies linked to him, according to court officials.

Restis' family owned a majority stake in FBBank, which had about 1.6 billion euros' worth of assets before it was liquidated, with its healthy assets absorbed by Greece's top lender, National Bank.

Restis has denied any wrongdoing.

Conditions of his release include staying in the country and frequently reporting to police, court officials said, adding that judges believed he was not likely to flee abroad or commit a crime if he was released.

His lawyers said in a statement that the decision was based on "new, essential evidence".

"Mr. Restis will fight until the end to prove his innocence and will continue his business activity in Greece and abroad along with his thousands of employees," the statement said.

Restis Group has said the accusations against the shipowner were baseless.

Shipping accounts for about 5 percent of Greece's GDP and is one of the pillars of an economy in recession for a sixth consecutive year.

Greece's wealthy shipowners have enjoyed favourable tax terms for decades, but have come under fire since the crisis broke out, with opposition parties accusing them of sidestepping their share of austerity and the tax burden.

(Writing by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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