Towards the end of the classic 1997 film L.A. Confidential, tenacious rookie detective Edmund Exley (played by actor Guy Pierce) opens up as to why he became a cop. “Rolo Tamasi,” he says, a fictional umbrella name for “the guys who thought they could get away with it.”
In the Curtis Hanson film, the original Rolo Tamasi was little more than a “purse snatcher”, whereas his final embodiment (Spoiler alert) is none other than the veteran Captain Dudley Smith. In reality, those that repeatedly ‘get away with it’ are much more likely to be in a position of power, to be part of the establishment, than to be common criminals. Street thieves and drug dealers eventually get caught but institutional corruption is much more difficult to root out and prosecute.
In a recent article I wrote for EUobserver, I argued that pervasive corruption is undermining any chance at a Greek economic recovery. According to a Transparency International report I quoted, the phenomenon has reached “breathtaking proportions”. The particular subject of my EU Observer piece, though, was football (or ‘soccer’ as most Daily Kos readers would likely say) and, most notably, Evangelos Marinakis, a shipping magnate and President of Olympiakos FC, Greece’s most successful club.
“The Koriopolis affair involves allegations that major club presidents, including Evangelos Marinakis, the boss of Greece’s biggest team, Olympiakos, top referees and League officials worked together to secure favourable results by resorting to threats, violence, and bribes.
“When the scandal broke, Marinakis was also president of the Greek Super League and vice-president of the Hellenic Football Federation [EPO], increasing the gravity of the allegations aired in this case.
“This is not the first time Marinakis has been accused of foul play on Greece’s football fields. Back in May 2013, referee Thansis Yiachos, who was the subject of much criticism after he appeared to favour Olympiacos during a match against Asteras Tripolis, admitted that Marinakis had paid him a visit during half time, breaking [EPO] rules.
Olympiacos won the match 3-1 and Marinakis walked away after he claimed his stop-in was a harmless good luck gesture.”
Evangelos Marinakis could, in many ways, be considered Greece’s Rolo Tamasi, the guy who gets away with it. Throughout his career, Marinakis has been hit time and time again with allegations of bribery, extortion, and violence, yet has never faced justice. Each time a court date approaches, some new extraordinary development occurs, letting him off the hook. The on-going trial against him, based on hours of secretly-recorded phone conversations implicating Marinakis in a string of match-fixing scandals, looked set to deliver a landmark judgement as it reached its final stages. In the 11th hour, however, lead prosecutor Aristidis Koreas, who had been building the case for years, was inexplicably replaced
Despite Marinakis’ high public profile and the general interest that alleged match fixing should stimulate, the Greek press and public have been markedly passive. In a brilliant exposé from Athens-based The Press Project, journalists Jacob Serfas and Nikolas Leontopoulos convincingly display the “deafening silence” of the Greek media with regards to the allegations against Marinakis. However, recent developments have led the eye of the international media to finally turn towards the Olympiakos oligarch’s alleged wrongdoings, which in turn prompted me to pen this post.
A beaten ref, an alarmed Scotsman and a flurry of accusations
The Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) was catapulted into international attention last week when the body took extraordinary action to suspend all professional soccer indefinitely. The decision followed the brutal beating of Christoforos Zografos, the assistant director of Greece’s central refereeing committee, by two men with iron bars in West Athens; a “murderous attack” according to the EPO. Soccer referees have repeatedly been the target of threats and violence in Greece, where they are consistently co-opted into match fixing schemes.
The head of the central refereeing committee, Scottish official Hugh Dallas, appointed last summer in an attempt to curb the game’s corruption, has resigned over the matter, refusing to be responsible anymore for referee selection in Greece.
It was here that Marinakis entered the fray. Likely pre-empting theories that he might be behind Zografos’ beating, the shipping tycoon accused the owner of rival soccer club AEK Athens, Dimitris Melissanidis, of ordering the assault (Melissanidis categorically denies this). The Greek sports prosecutor in charge of the ongoing match-fixing investigation has called the two men and the head of the EPO in discuss their respective charges.
The situation that Greek soccer finds itself in is grave, and any potential solution will require lengthy court proceedings and a great deal of courage from state officials and witnesses. The Greek media should also play a part, though it is unlikely to happen since the same men who own the most influential outlets are those who are being accused of corruption. If one good thing can come out of this horrible situation, however, it would be that Evangelos Marinakis is given the trial he justly deserves. If the plotline of L.A. Confidential is anything to go by, even the guys who think they can get away with it eventually get caught.