Fourteen people, including employees of the Athens municipality, the Attica regional government and culture ministry, have been charged with seven felonies in an extortion case involving a “protection” racket preying mostly on the owners of food-and-beverage establishments in “touristy” parts of the Greek capital.

The case was initially assigned and investigated by Greek Police’s (EL.AS) internal affairs division after an anonymous email was sent to authorities.

All of the suspects were led before a relevant prosecutor in Athens in Wednesday, where six requested and received a continuance to testify before an investigating magistrate on Thursday.

Charges include the major felonies of running, establishing and joining a criminal organization and extortion by threat.

The most common form of “shake down” involved demanding money from café, shop and eatery owners to avoid municipal code violations, such as occupying too much public space with chairs and tables or even kiosks exceeding building  code limits.

Besides the 14 arrested individuals, authorities are investigating nearly two dozen other people as suspected accomplices and associates.

All of the suspects in custody have been suspended from their positions, while two individuals were expelled by the PASOK party when their party membership surfaced.

According to intense media coverage in the country this week, the two ring-leaders are civilians unaffiliated with any state service, described as a 63-year-old man and a 43-year-old woman identified only as “Nancy”. The latter has also been described as particularly active and prolific in her interactions with blackmailed business owners and would-be victims.

Notebooks confiscated from the latter include handwritten notes containing names, dates, addresses and amounts paid by those extorted, police maintain.

Moreover, purported mobile phone conversations between the racket’s members and with victims of the blackmail have been widely published in local media this week.

Annual “shake down” rates ranged from 1.000 to 6.000 euros and up to 1,500 euros for kiosks.