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Man Arrested In Sweden In Connection With 2019 Fires At Jewish Institutions In Arlington, Needham And Chelsea

BOSTON (CBS) - A man accused of obstructing a federal investigation into fires at Jewish institutions in Massachusetts in 2019 has been arrested in Sweden.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston said 35-year-old Alexander Giannakakis was arrested Wednesday by Swedish authorities in a Stockholm suburb.

The FBI said Giannakakis' younger brother was the prime suspect in an investigation into a total of four fires in May 2019 at a Chabad Center in Arlington, another one in Needham and a Jewish-affiliated business in Chelsea. The center in Arlington had two fires.

Giannakakis' brother later died, but investigators questioned Alexander about storage facilities the brothers had rented.

"It is alleged that Giannakakis deliberately lied about the second storage unit and concealed it from investigators to prevent them from seizing his brother's property," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.

In an indictment unsealed Wednesday, prosecutors said Giannakakis went to the second storage unit on March 22, 2020 and "removed items belonging to his younger brother that were relevant and material to the ongoing arson investigation," including a backpack and bottle of cyanide.

Giannakakis, who lived in Quincy, then left for Sweeden that night and never returned.

Rabbi Mendy Krinsky, of the Chabad Jewish Center in Needham, whose home was set on fire in May 2019, said he is grateful for the FBI's handling of the case. "We are grateful that they took it very seriously, not as some little event, a very serious event, like domestic terrorism and a hate crime, which it is."

Rabbi Avi Bukiet, of the Chabad Jewish Center, Arlington, whose home was set on fire twice in May 2019 said the experience was "extremely traumatic for myself and my family and the wider community. This is not only the center of Jewish life in Arlington this is also the rabbi's home."

However, he said, the arrest brings relief. "But, those were traumatic days, but this brings a real closure, and although it is almost three years later, we find relief at this moment."

Giannakakis is now facing a long list of charges, including making false statements, concealing records and tampering with documents. Federal investigators plan on bringing him back to Boston to face charges.

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