Ex defense minister remanded for money laundering

Former Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos was remanded in custody on Monday after testifying before an investigating magistrate for more than eight hours in connection with an extensive money laundering network he is believed to have used to conceal millions of euros in under-the-table payments from defense procurement deals signed when he was minister.

Tsochatzopoulos reportedly had sought more time to prepare his testimomy, a request that was rejected by the magistrate. His lawyers meanwhile are said to have raised various objections and to have claimed that the former minister’s human rights were being violated. One of their objections was that the decisions on arms procurements, from which Tsochatzopoulos is alleged to have secured millions of euros in kickbacks, had not been taken exclusively by the ex minister but by all the members of the state Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) and by former premiers Costas Simitis and George Papandreou.

Three suspects implicated in the money laundering network -- including Tsochatzopoulos’ first cousin Nikolaos Zigras, also a former minister - are due to testify on Tuesday.

Tsochatzopoulos was to be detained at the Athens police force’s headquarters on Monday before being transfered to Korydallos Prison on Tuesday.

According to a lengthy report by prosecutors Evgenia Kyvelou and Eleni Siskou, the 73-year-old minister has pocketed millions of euros in under-the-table payments for defense procurements since 1997, with the frequency of illicit transactions peaking between 1999 and 2002. These activities were concealed with the help of close associates who ran three offshore companies to hide the money, some of which was used to buy the ex-minister’s array of assets, according to the report.


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