NEWS

Psomiadis poised to walk free

The somewhat unusual relationship between businessman and soccer club owner Makis Psomiadis and the Greek justice system took another peculiar turn Tuesday when a magistrate deemed that there was not enough evidence to hold the 55-year-old, who had been on the run for more than two months, in custody on charges of match fixing.

Psomiadis remained behind bars on charges of owing some 300,000 euros to the state, but should he settle this bill in the coming days, the owner of Kavala soccer club could walk free.

This would only heighten suspicions about the forces at work to keep Psomiadis out of jail. He has been convicted of a number of crimes since the 1980s, including smuggling and embezzlement, but has avoided serving time in jail by claiming ill health. One doctor who in the past diagnosed him as having an illness later had his license to practice medicine revoked and committed suicide.

The magistrate and prosecutor handling Psomiadis?s case on Tuesday had a disagreement over whether he should remain in custody pending his trial on charges that he was part of a gang that fixed the results of Greek soccer matches to make profits from gambling. The magistrate deemed that there was not enough evidence linking Psomiadis with the suspect matches or the gambling profits.

The 55-year-old denied fixing matches, arguing that there was no proof that he blackmailed or colluded with anyone, nor that he profited from such actions. He claimed that he was a victim of a ?savage? attack by the media which was threatening to bring about his ?professional, moral and social destruction.?

The judge proposed that Psomiadis, who had evaded arrest from June until last week, be released on 600,000 euros bail and be banned from leaving the country. The prosecutor had asked that he be remanded in custody.

Psomiadis was eventually taken back to prison but only because he also faces tax-dodging charges. His lawyer said that the businessman plans to settle the 300,000-euro bill in the next few days, paving the way for his release.