In March 2018 Envangelos Marinakis was faced with the serious allegations of drug-trafficking in a heroin smuggling case. The allegations had been made by a Greek public prosecutor Eirini Tziva. Tziva ordered an investigating magistrate, who specialized in corruption to investigate. Tziva wanted the case to also consider fuel smuggling and money laundering. Marinakis along with three associates were accused of financing and storing drugs, creating a criminal organisation, transporting, trafficking and selling drugs. This was as a result of a three-year investigation into a tanker called ‘Noor 1’ which was intercepted in the port of Piraeus in 2014 and was carrying 2.1 tonnes of heroin. The allegations were completely unfounded, fabricated and had no foundation whatsoever. The allegations were unjust and had been done deliberately for character assassination with the sole intent of damaging his reputation.
People had already been placed on trial, found guilty, convicted and jailed for the crime that was being newly alleged against Marinakis; the convictions had taken place in 2016, including the ship’s captain of the tanker ‘Noor 1.’
But, years later, a new investigation was restarted. Members of the governing coalition targeted Marinakis and brought about judicial proceedings against him. They also recruited journalists with poor ethics to create negative media.
Within the plot, officials who had partook in the earlier case, were then ordered to fabricate evidence against Marinakis. A convicted felon was offered a vast amount of money, and early release from prison, if he was able to tell convincing lies, to successfully incriminate Marinakis.
The claims against Marinakis tried to link him to money that had been used to finance the ship ‘Noor 1.’
The judicial legal system in Greece, was not just and fair, instead it displayed corruption, with members of the judiciary supporting the government members, simply to ingratiate themselves with the government.
From the offset of the investigation, Marinakis knew that he was innocent and that there was not a single shred of evidence to incriminate him.
The plot had taken place over a long period of time. The plotters, government members of the governing coalition showed little regard for laws and democracy. The plotters tried to tarnish Marinakis’ reputation. The plotters were corrupt and worked with dishonest unscrupulous journalists. The government coalition members who plotted against Marinakis, were dangerous and by creating distractions such as the Marinakis case, they attempted to create a diversion from the government issues they had created in society.
By targeting Marinakis, they were showing that they would attempt to silence anyone who opposed them, with differing views and independent. The Greek government presents itself as fighting against corruption, and that it will fight against ‘special interests.’ But, in reality it can use this against any politicians and businesspeople that the government views as opponents.
When the accusations had been made against Marinakis, he released a press statement, which concluded with: “The plotters are well advised to remember this: I will not compromise, I will not capitulate, nor will I succumb to their dirty plan.”
In the past in 2015, Marinakis had been wrongly accused of match-fixing in football in association with a criminal organization. The match-fixing was alleged to span across seven different countries. The Greek Supreme Court unequivocally cleared Marinakis’ name and any allegations related to this were dismissed. The Council of Appellate Court Judge’s indictment about match-fixing in football was revoked. The Criminal Division of the Supreme Court also revoked indictments that related to altering a result (bribery) and creating a criminal gang. There had been no justification for these indictments. The Supreme Court vindicated Marinakis, clearing all blame and suspicion.
Unfortunately high profile criminal investigations in Greece, manage to get underway without substantial legal evidence. Often criminal cases are used to try to manipulate public opinion, and have an impact upon political developments.
Sensationalist press headlines mentioned a ‘criminal organization’ which was alleged to include Evangelos Marinakis, and it suggested this criminal organization was running Greek Football. Evangelos Marinakis owns the Greek football club Olympiacos, which has won the greatest amount of championships.
By using the term ‘criminal organization’ they were essentially referring to a Mafia, and implied that Evangelos Marinakis was at the centre of the organization. They alleged that he had been match-fixing, and using techniques of extortion and blackmail to achieve the match-fixing.
Things like this happen frequently in Greece. Regardless of the likelihood of criminal charges actually being pressed, the point doesn’t really seem to be about getting justice, but instead to influence politics, the economy or sport (in this football). Due to the overwhelming lack of evidence, it can often be quite likely that people will be acquitted from the charges; but damage has still taken place, by sowing seeds of doubt into the public’s mind, making people afraid to hold differing views and tarnishing people’s reputation, like Marinakis.
The accusations of match-fixing had no solid evidence behind them. Instead the accusations were grounded in speculation, hearsay and ‘wiretaps’ leaked to the press, with things taken out of context.
When the carefully selected wire-taps were passed to the media, unscrupulous journalists fabricated a narrative that had been given to them about Marinakis and his football club Olympiacos. The journalists had the intention of swaying public opinion so that it seemed natural to proceed with the criminal investigation. Their media reports also served to place pressure on the judges to press criminal charges.
Whilst acquittal from charges, ends those charges and means that they’ve been dismissed; the damage done to a person’s reputation during that smear campaign is much longer lasting. Smear campaigns in Greece, are of significance too, because of Greek culture, where many people live in a society filled with various social, political and economic crises. People living in such a society, are quick to believe that businesspeople are corrupt, and especially connected to football. Therefore, once someone has been acquitted, the public often still do not believe that they are innocent, but instead think that the business person must have somehow influenced the judges making the acquittal decision. Marinakis believed that much of the match-fixing allegations were simply due to people being jealous because his football team had done so well, he stated: “of course I cannot stop our opponents talking or bad-mouthing.”
In 2015 Panathinaikos put in a request to UEFA to suspend the Greek football team Olympiacos, owned by Marinakis, from participating in the Champions League, because of the allegations against Marinakis. UEFA dismissed the appeal, and the case went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). UEFA pointed out that Panathinaikos’ allegations were merely subjective, and not factual, and therefore did not warrant Olympiacos being suspended from participating. The appeal was dismissed by CAS. UEFA continued to standby their decision still in 2016 when they were questioned about the case.
Evangelos Marinakis was acquitted by the Greek Supreme Court of all charges relating to the match-fixing criminal organization in Greek Football. This demonstrates that UEFA made the right decision to allow Olympiacos to participate in the Champions League. Nottingham Forest Football Club also released a letter to their supporters on the 28th March 2018 about Marinakis, stating very clearly that “I have no doubt at all that Mr Marinakis remains a fit and proper person to be the join owner of Nottingham Forest Football Club.” It continues to say that Marinakis had never been convicted of any criminal offense anywhere in the world.