EDITOR’S NOTE (Nick Stamatakis): A few days ago Helleniscope published a preview of the investigative report of Alexander Clapp (“New Republic”), describing in great detail the biggest drug trafficking bust in European history… This is the story of the fantom-ship, “Noor 1”, which was carrying three tons of top quality cocaine from the Persian Gulf to Europe. The drug deal was busted in Greece in 2014 and the ship is still sitting in Elefsina, near Pireaus.
Since 2014 most characters associated with Noor1 have died, by “committing suicide” or murdered… Last year a satirical news site ran the headline “WITNESSES ARE GETTING THEMSELVES KILLED TO FRAME INNOCENT SHIPOWNER.
This “shipowner” is Vangelis Marinakis, a close associate of the Mitsotakis “Family”… Just yesterday, on the occasion of Secretary Pompeo’s visit to Greece, we were noting that the U.S. needs to start disassociating from mafia-like families who run Greece for decades for many reasons, chief of which is the advancement of American interests and particularly healthy investments… The U.S., acting correctly, did not allow Greek shipowners to carry Venezuelan oil… How can it accept that one of them (who also happens to be associated with Wilbur Ross!) was involved in the biggest drug-trafficking bust in Europe? Needless to say, Marinakis, who is the “boss” of Pireaus, has easy access to the Chinese Communists who have bought the Port of the city and turned it into the number one port of the Mediterranean…
PHOTO: Noor-1, docked at Elefsina….
By Alexander Clapp (New Republic)
Evangelos Marinakis is a huge man, encircled almost everywhere he goes by bodyguards clad in black. He’s also someone very much used to having his way. A gallery owner in downtown Athens once told reporters the story of a valuable painting Marinakis wished to purchase from her. She claimed not to have it for sale. Two days later, a group of men stormed the gallery with cups of yogurt, which they tossed on her.
By 2012, 13 years after inheriting a fleet of tankers from his father—Miltiadis Marinakis, a shipowner born into a clan of Cretan bell makers—he had taken full ownership of one of Greece’s most famous soccer teams, Olympiacos. He began converting Piraeus, the Mediterranean’s second-largest container port, into a virtual feudal holding. He bought up blocks of its real estate. He sponsored food drives for refugees disembarking at its quays. He adorned its streets with statues of Greek heroes. He put himself forward as the patron of its working class.
In May 2014, as the Noor One was steering into the Suez Canal loaded with heroin, Marinakis was pivoting to politics. That month, he won a seat on Piraeus’s city council. He pushed the investor-friendly agenda of the center-right New Democracy party, which became Greece’s ruling party after elections in 2019. A collection of newspapers he purchased in 2017 lauded its leadership. Marinakis is close to the party’s president, Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and Mitsotakis’s sister, Dora Bakoyannis, the former mayor of Athens and mother of its current mayor. At Bakoyannis’s wedding in July 1998, Marinakis was best man.
As his clout continued to grow, Marinakis has emerged as a global financier to be reckoned with. In 2017, he bought the historic English soccer club Nottingham Forest for £50 million, even as he was under investigation for an Olympian-scale match-fixing scandal back in Greece, which involved an alleged bombing of a local bakery. Marinakis denies any wrongdoing, and the trial surrounding the scandal is still ongoing.
Marinakis also made allies in Beijing, which in 2016 acquired the port of Piraeus for a pittance as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, designed to further loop global trade flows through China. In Washington, he mounted another front of the international charm offensive, which culminated in a $1.7 billion merger in 2018 between his tanker fleet and Diamond S Shipping—a concern in which Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’s private equity firm holds a large stake. Overnight, Marinakis presided over one of the largest tanker contingents on Earth.
Still, the main new hub of Marinakis’s sprawling commercial empire is the Persian Gulf. Over the last three years, his fleets have clinched successive tenders to handle transportation for Iraq’s new state oil company, Aissot—tenders in which Baghdad pays $23,000 per day for every ship it rents from Marinakis to transport its oil around the world.
But at just the time all this had been happening—the acquisition of soccer teams and the amassing of armadas and the clinching of lucrative oil contracts—authorities back in Piraeus were investigating Marinakis and three of his associates on claims they set up a criminal organization that financed the trafficking and sale of narcotics. Marinakis also denies these charges. His potential connection to the Noor One, if it is proved out in court, would mean that one of Greece’s most powerful men may have climbed to global prominence on the back of a titanic heroin deal. And if he had been in on the ground-floor planning for the Noor One deal, he managed to profit off the Noor One where so many others lost their fortunes or lives.
Marinakis’s alleged connection also invited the question of what he may have done over the years to quash evidence of his involvement. “Are any of the witnesses to Marinakis and the Noor One still alive?” asked the leader of a surging populist party in Greece’s Parliament in November 2019. The same month, a satirical news site ran the headline: “WITNESSES ARE GETTING THEMSELVES KILLED TO FRAME INNOCENT SHIPOWNER.”
In a Piraeus courtroom, over the course of three years and hundreds of hours of testimony and cross-examination, hardly a witness or prosecutor or judge had ever spoken Marinakis’s name aloud. But outside the slow-moving legal inquiry into the Noor One deal, a new, even more damning story was told about Greece. A decade of austerity had just gutted the nation’s gross domestic product by a third and wreaked financial havoc on its working class. But its shipping magnates—Marinakis foremost among them—had just reaped greater profits than ever. This windfall came their way thanks to legislation passed under Greece’s 1967–74 military dictatorship that rewarded the country’s shipowners with minimal tax rates, and thanks to a political class that failed to punish them when, even at the height of the financial crisis, they continued to whisk those earnings offshore.
At no point during the last six years of open speculation into Marinakis’s connections to the Noor One has he suffered any sort of significant financial hit. On the contrary, his power and influence have only continued to grow—and in such a way as to make any lasting legal reckoning improbable. Inside Greece, Marinakis’s capital has proved too vast, and his connections to its political scions too entrenched, to hinder the cornering off of his empire. Outside Greece, it became difficult to believe that a man with enough credibility to buy soccer teams and oil tankers seemingly at will could ever be connected to the world of men like Zindashti.
At the center of Marinakis’s alleged connection to the Noor One operation is Aimilios Kotsonis, who had been employed as an executive at Marinakis’s soccer club, Olympiacos, within months of the tanker leaving Dubai. In August 2016, Kotsonis received a suspended 10-year prison sentence for having set up a Sharjah, UAE, front company in 2013 to absorb potential drug profits.* From the witness stand, Kotsonis identified himself as “Marinakis’s man in Dubai” and testified that Marinakis had been bankrolling his various ventures in the UAE.
The next link was Yiannousakis. Marinakis has never confirmed or denied knowing the man who now sits in prison for life on drug trafficking charges. But according to Yiannousakis, they were business partners. Yiannousakis claims that Marinakis came to visit him in Dubai the summer before the Noor One left for Greece; they convened at the Burj al Arab hotel in Dubai, together with the oil sheiks to whom Yiannousakis and Mohammed Diesel were selling contraband fuel. (Marinakis has never commented on whether this meeting happened—and hasn’t been compelled to offer testimony, in the absence of an official court case against him.)