For years, Artemis Sorras has been selling himself as a saviour of Greece, a multi-billionaire offering his fortune as collateral to pay off the country’s debts, and urging people to pay for taxes and all other government agencies transactions with IOU notes referring to his alleged bonds of the defunct ‘Bank De l’ Orient’.
Now, he is singing a different tune.
In a video message addressed to his supporters, the leader of Greece’s strangest grassroots movement urged them to honour their debts themselves, using ‘real money’, instead of his alleged bonds.
“If you don’t pay, they will take your home, they will take your life,” he said.
“Repaying your debts is the precondition for crushing the beastly state.”
This is a far cry from his previous anti-austerity rhetoric which helped shape his organisation, the ultranationalist Convention of Greeks, which expanded rapidly throughout Greece, setting up more offices than any of the country’s major political parties.
Despite claiming that he can single-handedly cover the national debt, as well as all his followers’ tax obligations, Sorras asked his followers to pay a registration fee, which led the organisation to accumulate large sums of money.
Last March, Sorras and his wife were sentenced to eight years in jail for an older case of embezzlement. Since that time, he has been a fugitive from justice, communicating with his supporters only through video messages.