SPORTS

Psomiadis is lying low

With the financial crimes squad busy burrowing into the finances of AEK soccer club, the club’s strongman, Makis Psomiadis, has chosen to lie low, at least for the time being. According to unconfirmed reports, Psomiadis cleared his desk at AEK headquarters yesterday. «Since Makis Psomiadis has become the lightning rod, he will cease being involved in AEK affairs, because he loves AEK,» an aide told reporters yesterday. The controversial Psomiadis has had a long and checkered involvement with AEK, first as head of its basketball operations over a decade ago, and then, since the summer of 2001, as a minority but controlling shareholder of the club. Last week’s incident in which he allegedly insulted, and may have also attempted to assault, star player Demis Nikolaidis at the player’s home, has turned many AEK supporters, the players and the government, against Psomiadis. Psomiadis was been sentenced last fall to 12 years for fraud, in connection with an affair in which, as a publisher of tabloid «To Onoma» – which has long ceased publication – he claimed that former Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis, now the general secretary of the ruling Socialists, had received bribes to award public projects. Psomiadis has appealed his conviction and, although he was initially taken to jail, a panel of judges ruled that he could be freed pending the outcome of his appeal. A statement by AEK following the incident with Nikolaidis called Psomiadis a «representative» of the club. This contravened a sports law which forbids even an individual merely indicted for a felony to have administrative duties in a professional club. This was the signal the government had waited for to pursue Psomiadis further. Yesterday, Sports Minister Giorgos Lianis said that «there will be no dialogue between Mr Psomiadis and the State. The only person Mr Psomiadis can talk to is the prosecutor.» Psomiadis has named two cousins – each named Harialos Psomiadis – as chairman and chief executive of the club. The financial crimes squad officials are looking closely at his finances to find irregularities. It was announced yesterday that tax evasion of about 18 million euros was discovered in AEK’s books. the club claimed that this concerned a period, from 1997 to 2001, before Psomiadis actually acquired the club.