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    (File) Olympiakos soccer club chairman Evangelos Marinakis appears in court in Athens on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014

    Social Media Abuzz as UK Football Club Owner Faces Drugs Allegations

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    The Greek owner of Nottingham Forest - one of England's most famous football clubs and twice winners of the European Cup - reportedly faces preliminary charges after almost two tonnes of heroin was found on one of his ships. Social media has lit up with memes but the case is a test for the league's "fit and proper person test."

    On Monday, March 26, Evangelos Marinakis was acquitted of match-fixing by the Greek Supreme Court, only days after Reuters, citing their sources, reported he had been landed with the drugs charge.

    Marinakis owns one of Greece's biggest teams — Olympiakos, who are based in the port of Piraeus, which is where his giant shipping fleet is based.

    In May last year he bought Nottingham Forest, a "sleeping giant" who won the European Cup under Brian Clough in 1979 and 1980 but dropped out of the top flight of English football 20 years ago.

    At the time he was facing match-fixing charges but he managed to pass the English Football League's Owners' and Directors' Test — sometimes known as the "fit and proper person" test — which was designed to stop clubs falling into the hands of nefarious owners.

    Marinakis Bought Club from Kuwaiti

    When Marinakis bought the club it was welcomed by a majority of Forest fans who were glad to see the back of previous owner, Fawaz al-Hasawi, a Kuwaiti, who had failed to bring success on the pitch.

    In an interview last year Marinakis was asked directly about some of the allegations surrounding him, including one that he had been involved in the bombing of a bakery belonging to a referee.

    "I'm not worried about it. I have nothing to do with it. I know very well what I have done," Mr. Marinakis told BBC journalist Richard Conway.

    He also promised to get Forest to where it belonged, which was in the "elite of the Premier League" and "guaranteed" manager Mark Warburton would be with the club "for a number of years."

    Fired Manager Seven Months After Takeover

    Warburton was sacked in December, after only nine months in charge.

    In 2015 Marinakis was banned from all football activity in Greece after being accused of fraud, attempted extortion, bribery and "instigating an explosion endangering human life."

    The latter charge referred to an incident in 2012 when a bakery owned by Petros Konstantineas, known as Crazy Wolf, was blown up after he refereed a Greek Super League fixture.

    Konstantineas claimed he had refused to go along with the match-fixers' wishes.

    "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'," he later told a journalist.

    "A bomb was placed in my bakery and it exploded in the middle of the night. My business was destroyed instantly — 10 cars were damaged outside. It was nightmarish," added Konstantineas.

    But on Tuesday he was cleared of the match-fixing charges.

    On Friday, March 23, a prosecutor in Piraeus, Eirini Tziva, brought charges of drug trafficking and financing an illegal enterprise against him in connection with 980 kilograms of heroin found on board a ship called the Noor 1 in 2014.

    Mr. Tziva also brought charges against Nikos Syntihakis, the former managing director of shipping firm Capital, attorney Vangelis Bairaktaris and marine insurance broker Ilias Tsakiris.

    'I am Innocent' Says Marinakis

    Marinakis has always denied any involvement and has never been convicted of any wrongdoing.

    Eric Lichaj celebrates scoring for Nottingham Forest as they knock Arsenal out of this year's FA Cup
    © AP Photo /
    Eric Lichaj celebrates scoring for Nottingham Forest as they knock Arsenal out of this year's FA Cup

    In a statement on the Olympiakos website she said he was "innocent" and the drugs charges against him were part of a "plot."

    A spokesman for the English Football League told Sputnik they would not be commenting on Mr. Marinakis' case but they said directors of EFL clubs were regularly sanctioned after failing the test.

    In 2015 Leeds United's Italian owner Massimo Cellino was disqualified from being a director of the club after failing the test.

    Last year Cellino, who was convicted in Sardinia of evading tax on a yacht, sold his remaining share in the club to fellow Italian Andrea Radrizzani.

    The test, which also applies in the English Premier League, was introduced in 2004.

    Since publication of this article, we have been contacted by representatives for Mr. Marinakis who have said that the reference to him facing charges for drug-trafficking was incorrect and was never banned from all football activity in Greece…We were also asked to make clear that, having conducted a preliminary investigation into allegations of drug trafficking in a heroin smuggling case the Greek prosecutor has referred those allegations to an investigating judge. The judge then reports back to the public prosecutor, who makes recommendations to the Judicial Council, which decides whether to refer the case for trial or acquit.


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