New evidence that emerged on the circumstances surrounding the death of former Greek minister Sifis Valirakis at sea in January suggests that it was perhaps a murder carried out by the fishermen’s mafia.
Valirakis, 77, had gone out in his inflatable craft on Sunday, January 24, off the coast Eretria on the island of Evia in central Greece, where his family has a vacation home.
His boat was found in the afternoon without him, and his body was found later in the evening.
His wife has always maintained that it was possible manslaughter.
In a letter to Shipping Minister Yiannis Plakiotakis, Mina Papatheodorou-Valiraki said there were indications that it was possible another boat was in the sea area at the time, which may have been involved in her husband’s death.
A medical examiner’s report said the death was caused by severe head and neck injuries.
However, an eyewitness emerged who, after almost three months, broke his silence and revealed that he saw a professional fishing boat approaching the inflatable operated by Valirakis.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, on the Greek investigative TV show ‘Light in the Tunnel’ and to its host Aggeliki Nikolouli, he said that when the professional boat approached Valirakis, “an argument erupted.”
The newcomers were shouting at Valirakis: “Get out of here, old man,” the eyewitness said.
He added that the newcomers hassled his inflatable by making at least two circles around it at high speed, causing big waves.
“It was a murder”: Eyewitness on the Greek Minister’s death
One of the professional fishermen even hit him with a pole, the eyewitness claimed. “He hit him two or three times, before speeding away.”
He stated he was about one hundred and fifty meters away from the incident and that he had clearly seen the perpetrators of the crime.
For him there is no question: “It was a murder,” he said, speaking to Nikolouli, who is a leading crime investigating journalist, presenting her show on TV.
He also revealed that there was another similar incident in the area off Eretria recently, when a local fisherman was hit by a wooden crate on the head because he had put long lines for fishing.
Manolis Fotakis, lawyer for the Sifis Valirakis family, who was at the TV studio during the eyewitness account said:
“The testimony of the witness is shocking. Our legal team will ensure his safety.
“His testimony confirmed what we claim from the first moment, that Sifi’s death was not an accident, but murder.”
In a telephone call to the TV show, the brother-in-law of the former Minister, Athanasios Papatheodorou, stated:
“This testimony is shocking and I want to congratulate the man who found the courage to reveal the truth. All this time we have been faced with unbelievable situations in Evia, because the authorities tried to downplay the case.”
Valirakis’ family legal team blames the Coast Guard for negligence. It says that local officials left the inflatable boat unprotected, in an open space, before detectives could properly carry out forensic examinations.
The victim’s personal belongings, such as his uniform and snorkel, were also left on the inflatable.
Family lawyers have filed an indictment for breach of duty against the Coast Guard.
Watch the relevant part of the program from 30′ onwards (in Greek):