The revelation that a hotel invoice for the stay in Athens of individuals charged with participation in a criminal blackmailing ring was initially issued in the name of PAOK FC, and then reissued in the name of Ivan Savvidis’ Dimera Company, has once again brought to light a case that had long been concealed
It was on 30 August, 2015, that four individuals entered the courtyard of the “La Challe” Hotel in the city of Xanthi, with the aim of torching the automobile of Razvan Lucescu*, who at the time was the coach of Xanthi FC.
Seeing only one car with Romanian license plates, they assumed that this was the car they were looking for, and proceeded to torch it.
In fact, they had set fire to the car of his cousin, Dragos Lucescu. A few days earlier, a Xanthi-PAOK match ended in a 0-0 no-score draw. The arson incident did not receive publicity, a fact that even the culprits found odd.
Two years later, Lucescu was appointed coach of PAOK FC. A few weeks later, on 14 October, 2015, three members of the same criminal organisation proceeded to set fire to the automobile of the wife of Yannis Evangelopoulos.
Evangelopoulos was working as the agent of Yannis Tzandaris, who chose to accept an offer from Olympiakos FC instead of one from PAOK FC, and he also represented Ergys Kace, an Albanian defensive midfielder, who chose not to renew his contract with PAOK.
These cases were cracked by law enforcement authorities, and specifically by the Bureau for the Prosecution of Blackmail of the Police Directorate of Thessaloniki.
It is now known that the mastermind of the criminal organisation, which is being investigated for cases of blackmail, threats, violent acts, arson and drug trafficking, is considered by law enforcement authorities to be a prisoner in Trikala Prison, Grant Agatzanian.
We also know that in the same case, another man of Armenian descent, Edgar Eritsyan, as well as Spyros Milioridis, who was in charge of PAOK FC’s relations with organised associations of fans, and who had previously served as a member of the Board of PAOK FC, were both being investigated as suspects, due to their being implicated in the case.
The court records contain numerous dialogues of those who have been implicated and are being investigated in the case, which demonstrate both the preparations for the arson attacks, and the objective of terrorising and blackmailing.
The following dialogue, which according to the court records concerns a briefing on the arson attack on the automobile of Evangelopoulos’ wife, is indicative.
The police officers who recorded the dialogues concluded that the word “flowers” was a code phrase for arson.
Eritsyan: “Ah, I just wanted to say, call your gal and ask if she likes ‘flowers’.”
Milioridis: “Ok, fine.”
Eritsyan: “Because I sent a lovely ‘bouquet’.”
Milioridis: “All right.”
Eritsyan: “All right? Yes.”
Milioridis: “Did you find her at home?”
In addition, it has been revealed that there is sworn testimony that states that the invoices from Eritsyan’s stay in Athens, which coincides with the days of the arson attack on the car of Evangelopoulos’ wife, were initially issued for PAOK FC, and finally new invoices were issued by the hotel for the Dimera Company, which is Ivan Savvidis’ company in Greece.
The employee of the tourist agency that made the reservations stated in her sworn testimony the following: “On the morning of 25 September, 2015, I received a telephone call for the owner of the agency […] in order to make a reservation for a room with three beds, which would be occupied by three individuals.
Because it was difficult for me to find such a room, I made a reservation at the “Athens Habitat” hotel. The reservation was made in the name Edgar Eritsyan and involved a one-night stay, and the occupants were to depart on 26 September, 2015, as they indeed did. On the morning of 15 October, 2015, I again received a telephone call from Mr. […] , in order to again make a reservation in the same name, Eritsyan.
This time, however, the reservation was for two persons, and for a two-night stay. In other words, the occupants of the room were to depart on 15 October, 2015, as they did. Once again, I made the reservation for the clients at the Athens Habitat hotel, because its location suited them. The invoices for the aforementioned stay of our clients were initially issued for PAOK FC. However, they were canceled, for reasons which I cannot recall, and new invoices were issued for the same stay, in the name of the Dimera Company, which paid the bill.”
A veil of silence or a true investigation?
It is clear that this is a case of exceptional significance. It involves terrorising and blackmailing individuals who are linked to football and, more specifically, to PAOK FC.
Among the individuals being probed for participation in the affair is a person employed by PAOK FC.
The invoices for the hotel stays in Athens of individuals implicated in the case, on days that one of the arson attacks was carried out, were initially issued in the name of PAOK FC, and then were canceled and issued in the name of a company in Greece owned by Ivan Savvidis.
Yet, despite the fact that there is a massive file containing crucial evidence in the case, charges inexplicably have not yet been filed.
Moreover, the file has not been sent to the competent Athletics Prosecutor, despite the existence of indications that officials of a football club are implicated in a very serious criminal case.
What is more, this case is being swept out of the public eye.
Meanwhile, in other cases, through manipulation and directed publicity that served ulterior motives, a segment of public opinion still accepts the original “narrative” regarding the notorious case of the bakery of Mr. Konstantineas, despite the fact that there was never an inkling of evidence of officials of Olympiakos FC being implicated.
At the same time, serious questions arise regarding the stance of the government. While in other cases there is a plethora of public statements, charges, and a priori “convictions” by government cadres, in this case a radio silence prevails.
Despite the fact that this case involves, if the evidence in the court records that has come to the fore is substantiated, terrorising and blackmailing that is linked to football, and practices that call to mind tactics of the Mafia, it has not been a focus of those who claim to want to “clean up” football.
Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis has not exhibited any particular interest in the case. Similarly, Deputy Minister for Athletics, Yorgos Vasiliadis, and Deputy Minister for Civil Protection Nikos Toskas, have not shown any interest in the case either.
Might this have to do with a certain “prestige” that continues to be attached to PAOK FC in the view of members of the government? Who can forget the memorable presence of Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and Labour Minister Effie Achtsioglou in Mr. Savvidis’ suite at PAOK’s stadium at Toumba?
Might it be that SYRIZA has not decided whether Ivan Savvidis is an “investor-saviour” or a political liability? Might it have to do with the fact that they are preoccupied with machinations and fabricated charges in other cases that have monopolised their interest, and that consequently they did not “pay attention” to this case?
In any event, it is impossible for the silencing of the affair to continue.
* Răzvan Lucescu is a Romanian professional football head coach and former football player. He is the current manager of the Greek club PAOK FC.