NEWS

Ex-minister jailed as money laundering probe deepens

IOANNA MANDROU

TAGS: Crime, Corruption

Former Socialist defense minister Yiannos Papantoniou and his wife Stavroula Kourakou were taken to Attica’s high-security Korydallos Prison on Wednesday after judicial authorities ordered them to be remanded in custody over charges of money laundering linked to alleged bribes from a state defense contract.

Papantoniou was remanded after testifying for almost 18 hours. He and his wife were initially taken into police custody late Tuesday before being transferred to Korydallos on Wednesday.

An investigating magistrate and prosecutor decided to detain the pair pending trial after deeming them a flight risk as they rent a second home in Switzerland and have bank accounts there.

The judicial officials also deemed that the pair could commit further offenses if allowed to go free.

Papantoniou has denied charges according to which he laundered 2.8 million euros in Swiss Francs that he is alleged to have pocketed in exchange for securing a contract in 2003 to upgrade six Hellenic Navy frigates.

A friend of the former minister has reportedly admitted to having deposited money in Papantoniou’s bank accounts without knowing that its provenance might be illegal. Judicial officials are questioning witnesses and suspects.

In comments to reporters as he was being led away from the magistrate’s office in handcuffs on Tuesday night, Papantoniou suggested that the decision to remand him was political, referring to a “utilization of justice that is damaging our democracy.” 

“The Polakis doctrine is being implemented in general,” he added, apparently referring to controversial comments by outspoken Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis earlier this month, according to which the government will clinch an election victory next year “if we put certain people in prison.”

Responding on Facebook, Polakis accused Papantoniou of belonging to what he called the “Simitis doctrine,” hinting at corruption in the government of former Socialist premier Costas Simitis.

There is a chance that Papantoniou will not only be tried for money laundering. Judicial authorities have asked Parliament to determine whether bribery charges against him have expired under the statute of limitations.

If not, the case file will be returned to the judiciary and he could face more charges.

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