Saturday, June 15 2024

Mobs at war over fuel, tobacco rackets


The execution of mobster Vangelis Zambounis in the Athens suburb of Neos Kosmos on January 14 was just the tip of the iceberg in a case that began unfolding about two years ago, involving ethnic Greeks from the former Soviet Union who appear to have embarked on a campaign of sorts to push out rival leaders of the so-called Greek Mafia. 


According to the police, the turf war involves the battle to control the illicit trade in tobacco and fuel.

Indicatively, in recent years, and probably also due to the war in Ukraine, the mobsters tried to take control of the illegal tobacco market in Greece, demanding exorbitant amounts of money from domestic players.

A breakthrough in the case came last week with three arrests for three homicides and one attempted murder of prominent underworld figures.


The arrests are related to the executions of 53-year-old Yannis Skaftouros at his country house in Skourta in Viotia, central Greece, during Easter in 2022, and of Vassilis Roubetis and his brother-in-law Dionyssis Mouzakitis (who was also Skaftouros’ bodyguard) in June 2023 in Korydallos in western Athens, as well as the attempted murder of a 47-year-old ethnic Greek from Uzbekistan in 2023 in Katerini in northern Greece. The latter survived the attack, only to die a few months later from a heart attack.  

Skaftouros, or “Uncle Joe” as he was known among criminal circles, was active in fuel smuggling, controlling gas stations in Attica, as well as tankers that had been involved in the trafficking of chemical solvents from Bulgaria to Greece for the adulteration of petrol. He had reportedly also sought to expand his activities into tobacco smuggling.

Police investigators have also linked the three executions to two arson attacks, the first at a gas station in Aspropyrgos in West Attica and the second at a warehouse in the same area that housed an illegal cigarette factory.

The case file additionally includes the details of five more people, two of whom are in custody in prisons in Greece, specifically in Larissa, and in Montenegro.


The name of one of the other three wanted men, meanwhile, was implicated in the kidnapping of a 60-year-old expat from Kazakhstan in 2016, who was eventually found dead in an irrigation canal. The victim in that case was described at the time as a cigarette smuggler.