Greek souvlaki store owner caught up in Melbourne drug-trafficking investigation


A Lamborghini-driving cryptocurrency founder is fighting to regain control of his souvlaki store and Bitcoin empire after being charged over his alleged role in a drug-trafficking syndicate.

The legal stoush with the Australian Federal Police has prompted lawyers for Sam Karagiozis to file exclusion orders, seen by The Age, for the return of $2 million worth of items including personalised number plates ‘MRBTC’, a BMW sedan and motorbike and Reservoir property development.

Mr Karagiozis, a self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur” with the words “self made” tattooed across his knuckles, founded Australian cryptocurrency Auscoin in 2017 before opening a string of Bitcoin ATMs and souvlaki stores across the country.

But on March 7, the 28-year-old from Bulleen was charged with trafficking about 30 kilograms of drugs, including cocaine, MDMA and methamphetamine, following a lengthy federal police investigation involving officers from the AFP and FBI.

His arrest also followed raids, as part of the same police operation, on properties in Kew and Mernda in October 2017 that resulted in the seizure of illicit drugs that were allegedly being packaged for sale through the post.

Mr Karagiozis, who is currently on bail, said he plans to fight all charges.

“At this time all I wish to say is that my legal team is fighting to have the charges dropped and to have all assets released,” he said.

“It’s a very difficult time for me and my family and we just cannot wait for this to all be sorted.”

Officers from AFP allege that Mr Karagiozis and his criminal syndicate used the dark web and Bitcoin accounts for the sourcing, payment and distribution of drugs as part of a multimillion-dollar importation operation paid for with Bitcoin.

They launched Operation Crozet in February 2017 and began an investigation into the alleged importation of border-controlled drugs into Australia.

At the same time, Mr Karagiozis was flaunting his lavish lifestyle on social media. He made national headlines as Bitcoin grew in value and popularity, rolling out Bitcoin ATMs at a string of Australian shopping centres.

Shortly after his arrest in March 2018, AFP court orders were approved to restrain his assets including under proceeds of crime legislation.

Restraining orders prevent alleged criminals from selling off or transferring ownership of certain assets that police believe may have been used in or purchased with the proceeds of crime.

Those items restrained as part of the AFP application included a residential development on Cheddar Road in Reservoir, cash in 29 Auscoin ATMs and funds in 19 bank accounts linked to both Mr Karagiozis and his souvlaki stores in St Kilda, Thornbury, Toowoomba and Townsville.

Court documents released to The Age reveal that the police case against the 28-year-old also alleges that the criminal drug syndicate purchased a total of six properties over 2 ½ years with a combined value of $3,349,800.

At the time of his arrest, police also allege that Mr Karagiozis was “effectively controlling” a further property on Fellmongers Road in Breakwater, south-west of Melbourne.

Three other men have also been charged over their alleged involvement in the syndicate.

Mr Karagiozis, is due to return to court in January for his civil case and May for his criminal matters.

Sourced via Brisbane Times




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