AEK owner jailed for 12 years

The colorful owner of a top soccer club and former publisher of a small-circulation daily was sentenced yesterday to 12 years’ imprisonment for forging a document his paper published to support allegations of government graft in the tender for the new Athens airport. AEK owner Chrysostomos «Makis» Psomiadis said that the court judgment – reached with a 2-1 majority – was determined by the fact that the plaintiff was former Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis. «Mr Laliotis and all the ministers and MPs who paraded through the courtroom influenced the court,» Psomiadis said after the decision was read. «I leave with my head high… The likes of Laliotis cannot daunt AEK.» Laliotis left office in October 2001, and now holds the powerful position of secretary-general in the ruling PASOK party. The cigar-smoking Psomiadis, a priest’s son whose business concerns have included nightclub and racehorse ventures, was found guilty of forging a document which purported to prove that, while in office, Laliotis had taken 4.5 billion drachmas (13.2 million euros) to give the lucrative airport contract to a German consortium. The document was published in Psomiadis’s now-defunct To Onoma daily in February 1996, prompting a denial from Dresdner Bank where Laliotis and his wife were supposed to have banked the money. Press Minister Christos Protopappas, who testified against Psomiadis, said that «rigged attacks that try to smear the career and personality» of politicians «will be answered.» Psomiadis’s lawyers said they would appeal, and seek suspension of the conviction until the appeal can be heard. But the AEK boss, who was stripped in January of his presidency of the historic club’s board for breaches of Greece’s sports laws, was taken to Korydallos Prison.