Dozens of people have been detained in Athens in connection with an alleged match-fixing scandal that has struck Greece’s football leagues.
Sixty-eight people, including two league club presidents, club owners, players, referees and even a police chief, are facing a multitude of charges: illegal gambling, fraud, extortion and money laundering, among others.
Perhaps the most prominent suspects are Vangelis Marinakis, Greece's number one league official and chairman of the Olympiakos Piraeus club, and Avraam Papadopoulos, national team and Olympiakos player. (Both deny the charges).
The case does not touch us, Marinakis told reporters, adding there is no evidence that can prove his guilt.
Others implicated include Olympiakos’ former president Athanasios Kanellopoulos and former Olympiakos midfielder Kostas Mendrinos, who now plays with Aris, and Jose Reyes, a Spaniard who plays forsecond division Diagoras.
A Greek court has forbidden the arrested men from leaving the country.
Giorgos Nikitiadis, the government’s deputy culture minister, said the episode represents the darkest page in the history of Greek football and vowed to eradicate the sport of corruption in a probe that will go as deep and as high as necessary.
The scandal first erupted after the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the governing body of football in Europe, published a list of 41 match results from 2009-10 which they thought were suspicious.
According to Associated Press (AP), court documents indicate that the investigation involved recorded phone conservations, which included violent threats from corrupt team officials who fixed match results. Various people placed bets either online or with gambling agencies across Europe and Asia.
Panagiotis Bitsaxis, General Secretary of Sports, told reporters the upcoming season could be postponed because of the criminal probe.
Nothing is obvious at this time. We will study the situation until August 25. Everything is possible, he said.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.