ASSASSINATION – Taking its name from Athena the Goddess of Wisdom, the Greek capital of Athens is considered a ‘dream destination’ for the millions of tourists who visit every year.
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It is also famed for being Europe‘s oldest capital city and the birthplace of modern democracy and western civilisation.
But lurking in the shadows of its ancient gems lies a brutal underworld of gangland violence, racketeering, extortion and murder.
Known locally as the ‘world of the night’, in the last seven years there have been over 30 gangland killings in the historic capital.
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Last month’s public execution of a Greek mafia boss gunned down in a hail of bullets has now sparked fears that the country’s mobster rivalries could spiral out of control.
Crime boss Vangelis Zambounis was ambushed in the early hours of January 14 as he sat in his BMW.
The 44-year-old known as ‘The Ham’ had been parked outside a petrol station he owned when his assassins pulled up behind him in a stolen Jeep Lexus with fake number plates.
CCTV video shows a masked man armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle approaching Zambounis’s SUV and unleashing over 90 rounds through his side window.
The hooded killer then reloads and fires another hail of bullets into the mafia kingpin before opening the door and shooting him several times in the head with a pistol.
Statement From Police
According to police, ‘The Ham’ who controlled Athens’ western and southern suburbs is believed to have run a string of extortion and smuggling rackets.
He is also accused of being behind a series of murders of rival gangsters.
Police spokesman Stavros Balaskas said: ‘He lived by the sword and he died by the sword – or more precisely the bullet.
‘The victim was an executioner. He started his illegal career as an executioner and even tried to murder a high-ranking judge.
‘The people who carried out this attack were determined that they would get him.
‘You saw the ferocity with which they attacked and the determination they had by opening the door and shooting him in the head with a pistol.’
Investigations so Far
Police say they have since identified seven people they suspect of being involved in the contract killing which they believe was either an act of revenge or an attempt to seize control of the country’s lucrative oil smuggling business.
Crime in Greece
It is estimated that there are around 215 crime bosses known as ‘Godfathers of the Night’ vying for control in Greece.
Most are in collaboration with the Sicilian Mafia, Camorra and Albanian, Romanian, Russian and Serbian organised crime groups.
In a 2023 report, the Global Organised Crime Index which assesses countries’ levels of criminality and resilience to organised crime said: ‘Recent assassinations of individuals linked to these networks highlight the severity of this issue.
‘The permeation of crime through the already weakened Greek economy is expected to worsen the situation.’