Manchester United star Harry Maguire convicted of assault in Greece, but questions linger

After the verdict convicting him of aggravated assault, resisting arrest and attempted bribery, Maguire, 27, appealed the decision and posted a quote on social media attributed to Buddha.

The New York Times August 27, 2020 09:18:32 IST
Manchester United star Harry Maguire convicted of assault in Greece, but questions linger

A star athlete. An $82,000 restaurant bill before a boozy encounter on a sun-soaked island. A fight, arrests and — less than a week later — a conviction. But no conclusion.

The saga of Harry Maguire, the captain of Manchester United who was found guilty by a Greek court Tuesday on multiple charges, has captivated Britain, even though much about the incident remains shrouded in confusion.

After the verdict convicting him of aggravated assault, resisting arrest and attempted bribery, Maguire, 27, appealed the decision and posted a quote on social media attributed to Buddha.

“Three things cannot be hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.”

While the truth may ultimately be found, it may stay out of sight for some time. And for many observers of the high-profile scandal, the truth of the moment varies depending on the vantage point.

The case presented by Greek prosecutors goes like this:

Late one night last week, on the whitewashed streets of the old town on the island of Mykonos, plainclothes police officers were drawn to a disturbance. Maguire and members of his party were belligerent and confronted police, verbally abusing and physically assaulting them, officials said.

During the subsequent one-day trial on the nearby isle of Syros, the capital of the Cyclades island chain, the court was told that Maguire tried to use his celebrity and wealth to get out of trouble, according to media accounts of the trial.

“Do you know who I am?” he said, according to the prosecutor’s account. “I am the captain of Manchester United. I am very rich. I can give you money. I can pay you. Please let us go.”

Manchester United star Harry Maguire convicted of assault in Greece but questions linger

Harry Maguire leaves a court building on the Aegean island of Syros, Greece. AP

Maguire’s defense team denied he said any such thing and presented a starkly different version of events.

In their telling, Maguire’s party had been confronted the previous night by belligerent hooligans. Trying to provoke Maguire, they sang songs about one of the most tragic moments in the history of Manchester United, the 1958 crash of the team’s airplane in Munich, which resulted in the deaths of 23 members of the team and staff.

The next night, Maguire’s group was confronted again by the same men. Then things took a darker turn, according to Maguire’s associates.

Maguire’s friend, Ashden Morley, told the court that Maguire’s sister, Daisy, had been approached by “two Albanian-looking” men as some of the group went to buy kebabs.

He testified that Daisy Maguire’s eyes “rolled” in her head, leading the group to fear she had been slipped or injected with some form of a “rape drug.”

“All the girls started screaming, other people were coming down, and there was a real commotion,” Morley told the court, according to media reports.

Maguire and his friends tried to leave in a minibus that the football star had hired, but they were stopped by a group of men in two cars.

“The door was pulled open by a man,” Morley said. “We thought we were either being robbed or kidnapped. Everybody was very scared.”

The men who stopped the minibus might have been police officers, but if so, Maguire and his friends were unaware of it, the defense maintained. It portrayed the police as the aggressors, but the court was not convinced.

Maguire was found guilty and sentenced to 21 months and 10 days in jail, although the sentence was suspended for three years while legal challenges play out. Two of Maguire’s associates were also found guilty and sentenced to 13 months in prison, also suspended for three years.

“I remain strong and confident regarding our innocence in this matter — if anything, myself, family and friends are the victims,” Maguire said in a statement.

In fact, it may take years for the case to go to the country’s court of appeal, according to a Greek legal expert.

The initial trial and conviction, only days after the altercation, played out so quickly because of a Greek legal process that allows for speedy trials of those considered to have been caught in the act.

Christos Mylonopoulos, a professor of law at the University of Athens and president of the European and International Criminal Law Institute, said while an appeal must be filed within 10 days of the sentencing, its resolution might take years. The timing, he said, will depend on the court system’s caseload.

Since Maguire has been convicted of only misdemeanor crimes under Greek law, the court has up to eight years to hear the case again, Mylonopoulos said.

Manchester United said that because the court accepted Maguire’s appeal, he is presumed innocent and is free to travel as he awaits a full retrial.

But for Maguire, the fallout has been immediate. He was suspended from playing for the English national team for at least two matches, and his future has been thrown into question.

Manchester United has defended its star player, for whom the club paid more than $100 million in acquiring him from Leicester City in the English Premier League. He earns more than $230,000 per week, and the team said in a statement Wednesday that he would remain the team’s captain for the time being.

Manchester United, among the world’s most valuable sports franchises, finished third in the pandemic-delayed Premier League season that concluded last month. That won it a spot in the prestigious Champions League, the annual tournament among the top clubs across Europe.

While Maguire’s playing career is the main concern for fans, the coverage of the saga has been driven by reports of the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by a privileged few.

In particular, the details of the $82,000 tab for one five-hour-long bacchanal at the ritzy SantAnna Beach Club has been combed over by numerous news accounts in British and Greek media.

More than $60,000 of the bill covered expensive Champagne, the reports said. Most of the rest was spent on lobster, steak and cocktails.

It was a high price for a day at the beach. But it turned out to be only a fraction of the cost of Maguire’s Greek holiday.

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