NEWS

Ex-arms chief faces magistrate

The former head of procurements at the Defense Ministry, Yiannis Sbokos, pleaded his innocence on Thursday in response to accusations that he helped former minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos launder some 80 million euros in bribes for arms contracts.

Sbokos appeared before magistrate Gavriil Mallis after being arrested on Tuesday night on suspicion that he was part of a complex network that helped launder through offshore companies and property purchases the money allegedly obtained by Tsochatzopoulos when he was defense minister. Sbokos, a former PASOK MP, was remanded in custody until Monday, when he will give his deposition.

?Whatever I have to say, I will say it to the magistrate,? Sbokos told journalists. ?I am innocent.?

Sbokos was arrested at his political office in Ambelokipi, near central Athens. The police searched the premises as well as his home in the northern suburb of Kifissia. They confiscated four computers, various papers and two firearms. Sbokos said he had a license for the guns but it expired in 2011.

Sources said that Sbokos is likely to argue that there is no evidence linking him to the alleged money laundering other than the statements of other suspects that have already been questioned as part of the investigation.

Tsochatzopoulos, currently in pretrial custody in Korydallos Prison, is alleged to have accepted bribes from 1998 onward as part of the purchase of military equipment. According to the charges against Sbokos, the former Defense Ministry official allegedly obtained 1 million euros from illegal sources between 2000 and 2010. Also, he is accused of helping manage assets worth at least 40 million euros between 1998 and 2010, while knowing that the money was derived from bribes paid to Tsochatzopoulos.

Lawyer Giorgos Konstandatos, one of the 21 suspects in the Tsochatzopoulos investigation, was released after being questioned by Mallis on Thursday.

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