ATHENS: The trial of prominent former defence minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos and 18 others — including his wife, daughter, former wife, a cousin and former business associates — for money laundering charges stemming from alleged corruption in arms contracts is to continue on May 8.
Tsochatzopoulos, 73, his current wife, his German ex-wife, his daughter and another five suspects in the case have spent the past year in jail awaiting the criminal trial which commenced in the Athens Appeals Court on Monday.
All the suspects pleaded not guilty to the charges, apart the former minister’s cousin Nikos Zigras, who had already confessed his guilt to the magistrate.
“I want to apologise to everyone around the world, and ask for the grace and understanding of the judge, in this case that Akis Tzochatzopoulos has involved me in,” Zigras said.
Tsochatzopoulos, 73, is accused of money laundering linked to controversial arms deals during his years in power.
Facing a sentence of up to 20 years, Tsochatzopoulos is accused of pocketing kickbacks on state contracts to buy a Russian-made anti-missile system and German submarines during his stint as defence minister from 1996 to 2001.
The Greek state ended up paying surcharges of millions of euros.
Tsochatzopoulos, a founding member of the socialist Pasok party, once again maintained his innocence, saying he “categorically denies the allegations which systematically have strived to give the impression of a criminal organisation with the intention of money laundering” during his time as defence minister.
“I was minister for six years, I did my best for there to be no accusations,” he said.
He also requested the release of his wife, saying: “They wanted me and they arrested my wife.”
The former Pasok heavyweight and his wife, Viki Stamati, were transported to the trial from jail on a police bus. The former minister was led down the vehicle’s steps handcuffed and clutching a file of papers.
His daughter, Areti, and German-born ex-wife Gudrun, and another three defendants were not attending the trial opening and were being represented by their lawyers.