A banker and publishing tycoon who is a fugitive from Greece was denied bail Friday after his lawyer argued that a $135 million banking scandal carries political overtones so strong the man had to flee for fear of his life.

George Koskotas "is a subject of a controversy in Greece which is of cosmic proportions," said Ron Liebman, a Washington attorney representing the 34-year-old banker.Koskotas fled Greece on Nov. 6 after being indicted on five counts of fraud and embezzlement alleging he siphoned more than $135 million from the Bank of Crete, of which he was chairman.

The scandal has embarrassed the government of Premier Andreas Papandreou and prompted the resignations of two government ministers.

Opposition conservatives have charged that Koskotas was allowed to escape so he would not implicate top government officials in illegal financial deals.