German man caught 'smuggling' gold at Greek airport

Gold bars
Image caption Customs officials said they discovered gold tablets in the man's bags

A German man has been arrested at Athens International Airport after allegedly trying to smuggle nearly half a ton of gold and silver out of Greece, according to airport officials.

The suspect was preparing to board a Lufthansa flight for Germany.

The airline uncovered silver tablets in a cargo container and customs officials then found gold and banknotes.

This follows claims by Greece that Germany still owes it war reparations stemming from the Nazi occupation.

The BBC's Mark Lowen in Athens says the timing of the arrest is unfortunate for German-Greek relations.

While the gold, silver and cash seized by the authorities may not quite equal the claims for money plundered 70 years ago, today's news might make for some uncomfortable headlines, our correspondent says.

Greece's state legal council received a secret report this week with details of how much compensation the country would be asking for.

It is thought the amount could be up to 200bn euros (£170bn) and includes money taken from the Bank of Greece by German forces.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has been quoted by German media as saying that Greece should focus on reforming its economy. He said the issue of war reparations was resolved years ago.

'Gang links'

The man arrested at Athens International Airport was said to be carrying 7kg (15lbs) of gold tablets and almost 300,000 euros (£255,000) in cash in his luggage.

Customs officials also believe he attempted to smuggle out another 425kg of silver.

A source within the Greek police told the BBC that their investigation would focus on the man's links to any gang involved in money-laundering.

The financial crime unit will now take over the case.

Officers have been investigating a business address in Athens.

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