A 52-year-old French man was led before an examining magistrate on Wednesday, accused of repeatedly sexually abusing four refugee children staying at his home in Toumba, Thessaloniki. A self-proclaimed monk of the Franciscan order, the man had offered to put up the four unaccompanied minors from Pakistan in his home.
Among others, he was accused of giving his victims narcotic drugs without their knowledge in order to put them to sleep before proceeding with the acts of sexual abuse.
The suspect appeared before a public prosecutor earlier on Wednesday, who formally read out the charges against him. According to sources in the prosecutors’ office, the second charge of drugging his victims is especially serious because it involves minors and can carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The examining magistrate has now given him until Thursday to prepare his testimony and he will remain in custody until that time.
The case was uncovered following an investigation by the Thessaloniki police department for the protection of minors, following a complaint filed with the police by an NGO.
Everything started when the 52-year-old offered to put up unaccompanied minors, providing them with food and shelter, through an acquaintance working with a refugee and migrant hospitality centre in the Thessaloniki area. He subsequently hosted a succession of four teenage boys, aged between 14 and 17, in his home.
During that time, he also contacted a non-governmental welfare organisation involved in the support of children and young people, requesting legal aid regarding the residence status of the unaccompanied minors in his care and their right to stay in Greece.
When a child psychologist from the NGO contacted one of the refugee children, the boy revealed that he did not wish to return to the 52-year-old’s home because he did not feel comfortable there. He confided that the suspect gave him pills, saying they were treatment for itching, that made him lethargic and sleepy. The older man apparently committed the lewd acts when the boy was drugged in this way, while similar claims have been made by the other three boys that stayed with him.
The organisation then notified the police, who conducted a raid on the French man’s home on Tuesday and, in additional to the narcotic pills, also confiscated six hard disks and a digital data storage device that were sent to police labs for further investigation.