Light shed on key witness in ex-minister’s money laundering trial

Light was shed on Tuesday on the profile of the key witness in the money laundering trial of former Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, the latter’s first cousin and one-time confidant Nikos Zigras (photo).

Zigras, who has claimed that the ex-minister used him to launder bribe money allegedly accepted as part of defense contracts, was described by his former wife Sona Leontopoulou as “a shady character” who had protected Tsochatzopoulos. According to Leontopoulou, Zigras allegedly paid the spouse he had married before her 50 million euros to agree to a divorce, adding that he had taken her on several “luxury” vacations.

Zigras is the only one of the 19 defendants charged in connection with a huge money laundering racket that prosecutors said was centered around Tsochatzopoulos to have admitted to any involvement in the ring. He has admitted to carrying briefcases full of cash for Tsochatzopoulos and to have set up offshore firms to act as fronts in property exchanges.

Tsochatzopoulos also appeared in court on Tuesday for the first time in several days and repeated his appeal for the members of the former Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA), who co-signed the procurement deals he approved while defense minister, to be called to testify.

The ex-minister also pressed judicial authorities to release his wife and co-defendant, Viki Stamati, who has cited various health problems.