The political "thermometer" in Athens abruptly reached a "boiling point" on Thursday in the wake of allegations by one of Greece's most prominent shipowners and mass media owners against the current Tsipras government, including a claim that a relevant minister asked him to essentially finance a broadcast license for a pro-government construction contractor.
Speaking during a radio interview, well-known shipping magnate Vangelis Marinakis - the owner of Greece's most popular football club, Olympiacos FC, as well as and a majority owner of Nottingham Forest FC - alleged that Digital Policy Minister Nikos Pappas once asked him to meet with businessman Christos Kalogritsas, saying this was also a desire by PM Alexis Tsipras. He said Kalogritsas subsequently requested a 26.3-million-euro loan to cover the first installment of a broadcast license being auctioned off by the government.
Much of the political opposition in the country and a portion of the press accused Kalogritsas of serving as a "front man" in the Tsipras government's attempt in 2016 to manipulate the process for issuing broadcast licenses. The aim, according the opposition, was to muscle out or make licenses costlier for broadcasters deemed as critical of the government, as well as to stake out one or two licenses for business interests considered as pro-government.
"I challenge Mr. Pappas to come out and refute this... our capital has been checked by the biggest auditing firms in the world. Because our companies are listed (NYSE, NASDAQ) and because we cooperate with major companies, detailed audits take place," Marinakis said during the interview on the RealFM station.
In continuing his eyebrow-raising diatribe against the current hard left government, Marinakis said after he assumed control of the debt-laden DOL (Lambrakis) media group, government officials again asked him for "favors", namely, to hire managers and editors with a "friendly" attitude towards the government and ruling SYRIZA party.
He even mentioned rival football owner Ivan Savvidis, the Greek-Russian owner of PAOK Thessaloniki and an Athens-area television station (Open), by name, saying:
"I never hide in any of the business I conduct. I can't become like Savvidis...front-man... I've been patient all this time, but people must hear the truth."
He also flatly dismissed whatever judicial probes against him, charging that "every Greek citizen understands that I am personally being targeted by the government, despite the fact that these charges against me have collapsed."
Moreover, Marinakis said he's sought recourse to the European Court of Human Rights against Tsipras, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, former justice minister Stavros Kontonis and AN.EL party Panos Kammenos for besmirching his good name and ascribing guilt to him without any trial.
"If this government lasts until October, we'll have a conviction aginsat a standing prime minister (by the ECHR) for the first time ever."
Finally, he fired a direct salvo at the Kokkalis family, saying he inherited an Olympiacos club mired in debts, while saying son Petros Kokkalis' decision to vie for the European Parliament election on SYRIZA's ticket is completely "reasonable... as his father (telecoms and gaming technology tycoon Socrates Kokkalis) has contracts with SYRIZA, and good on him for supporting his father's work."
In an angry response, unnamed government sources charged that Marinakis is the "real leader" behind main opposition New Democracy, while calling his allegations "lies and mud-slinging"