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Greeks Seek Shelter Overseas As Russians Move In

LONDON - As fears grow in Greece that the country may be forced to leave the eurozone, those with savings are looking for a safe haven. Meanwhile foreign buyers are moving to snap up Greek bargains as house prices take a tumble. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Chelsea in London - the British capital’s wealthiest enclave and home to many of Europe’s richest residents.

The latest arrivals are well-off Greeks looking for a safe place to park their money.
Ed Meade is director of Douglas and Gordon, a real estate agency:

“There’s definitely been a trend of seeing a lot more Greek buyers than we expected - from all over Europe, but Greece predominantly," said Meade.

Meade says this is the typical property the Greeks are after - in good condition, in a managed block, and easy to rent out.

“They’re very keen to get their money out of Greece and park it in a safe haven," he said. "They talk about German bonds, gold and property and I suppose their argument is you can’t live in a bond or in gold.”

Figures show Greeks are moving their money out of the country at a rapid rate as fears grow of a euro exit.

Exact figures aren’t available, but some estimates suggest more than $90 billion has left the banking system since the economic crisis struck 3 years ago.

But as Greeks move their cash out, Russians are moving in.

The Kassandra peninsula has everything Greek tourism is famous for - sun, sand and a sparkling sea.

The financial crisis has seen property prices plunge by around 30 percent - attracting foreign bargain hunters.

Yannis Revithis is president of the Greek Real Estate Agents’ Federation:

"We would say that there is an increase in demand of at least 200 percent from interested Russian buyers and this shows also in the demand for tourist accommodation from Russians [which increased] by at least 100 percent," said Revithis.

Revithis says traditionally foreign buyers have come from Western Europe, but as the euro crisis has spread, the Russian rouble is taking over.

Greece and Russia have a long history of cooperation. Some Greeks hope that Russians can offer a lifeline to communities struggling to survive.

Constantinos Petridis is manager of the Mouzendis real estate agency:

"It is difficult to say how business will go, but certainly there is a general interest from the Russians to invest in Greece, they see it as a friendly country, they see the religion [that is similar], they see the Greeks' friendliness and hospitality," said Petridis.

The debt crisis is forcing some Greeks to shelter their savings.

For those with spending power, new opportunities are emerging.