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Businessman Looking To Buy Nottingham Forest Charged With Match-Fixing And Bombing Of Bakery

Evangelos Marinakis, a shipping magnate who also owns Greek champions Olympiakos, is at the heart of a major criminal investigation.
July 20, 2016, 1:37pm
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A Greek businessman with a reported interest in buying Nottingham Forest stands charged with bribery, fraud, extortion, match-fixing and the bombing of a bakery belonging to an uncooperative referee.

Evangelos Marinakis, a millionaire shipping magnate who currently owns Olympiakos, is at the heart of a major criminal investigation into corruption and malpractice in Greek football. The Mirror reports that – despite the ongoing case against him – the Football League cannot disqualify him from ownership as he has not yet been convicted of a crime.

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Marinakis joins a whole host of Greek football officials in being investigated for wrongdoing, including referees, fellow owners and a former president and legal advisor of the Greek FA. He was banned from all football activity in his home country in June 2015 after the charges were first brought, and subsequently has no direct say in the running of Olympiakos, despite owning the club.

He is contesting the charges against him, and denies unlawful behaviour. He is also reportedly appealing the right of the current prosecutor to sit in judgement on his case, because he is "a well-known Panathinaikos fan".

Marinakis, photographed in 2014 // EPA Images/Alexandros Vlachos

That represents the 11th appeal against the prosecution by defendants in the case, and the previous ten have all been rejected. Still, whether or not his appeal is successful, the Football League will not be able to block his attempted purchase of Nottingham Forest in the meantime.

The Football League Owners and Directors' Test bars anyone with an "unspent conviction" for corruption, fraud or perverting the course of justice in a court in England and Wales. It also disqualifies anyone worldwide who is serving a custodial sentence on 12 months or more. It does not cover people on bail or charged with serious offences however and, as it stands, Marinakis passes the necessary criteria.

While his outstanding bribery, fraud, extortion and match-fixing charges are bound to worry Nottingham Forest fans, it is the bombing of the bakery which stands out as a particularly worrying allegation. The referee who owned the property, Petros Konstantineas, told The Mirror that he could have been killed in the explosion.

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Having been allocated a vital fixture in 2012, he was told what the result should be before the match. As an up-and-coming match official with an excellent reputation, he refused to fix the game.

"I told them that the best and the luckiest team would win," he said. "I understood then that something really wrong was happening at the Greek Football Federation. But I also knew I was trapped. I had to do it, or my career was finished."

He continued: "After the game when I went to the hotel I was threatened, 'You're finished, you're this, you're that, that's the end of you'. A bomb was then placed in my bakery and it exploded in the middle of the night. My business was destroyed instantly. It was nightmarish.

"This had never happened in my town before. Even the police inspector was shocked. The bomb exploded at 1.20am, and I had planned to go to work at 3am, which is typical for a baker. It was only sheer luck that no one was injured."

One of the charges against Marinakis suggests that, as the head of the match-fixing syndicate involved, he ordered the bomb to be planted. He strongly rejects the allegation.

Fawaz Al-Hasawi still owns the club, as it stands // PA Images

On the pitch itself, numerous managers and players have claimed that matches have been fixed in Olympiakos' favour in recent years. They have won the league for the last six years in a row, and last year finished 30 points ahead of nearest rivals Panathinaikos.

Marinakis stands accused of masterminding everything from disciplinary penalties to refereeing decisions, and ultimately results. It is yet to be seen whether incumbent Nottingham Forest owner Fawaz Al-Hasawi will continue talks with Marinakis, or whether the deal will be completed.