Parliament indicts ex-minister

In a move that could prove a significant step toward cleaning up Greek politics, Parliament on Friday voted in favor of indicting former Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, who has been accused of accepting bribes in order to approve a submarine procurement deal.

Only 242 of the House?s 300 MPs participated in the secret ballot, with 216 of those voting for the former minister to be indicted on charges of accepting bribes and 215 voting for his indictment on money-laundering charges.

Defending himself in a speech before Parliament earlier, Tsochatzopoulos claimed that he was not upset that ruling PASOK was calling for his indictment, saying that the party had changed under Prime Minister George Papandreou and no longer represented him as it had done when Papandreou?s father, Andreas, was prime minister.

?I don?t feel anger or sorrow,? said Tsochatzopoulos, a founding member of the Socialist party. ?It is not my party that is indicting me, this is not PASOK.?

Tsochatzopoulos, who served in seven different ministerial positions during his lengthy political career, argued that he was being made a scapegoat by his former colleagues. He called Parliament?s decision to indict him a ?monument to the perversion of the truth.?

A judicial council will now meet to decide whether that statute of limitations applies to any of the charges Tsochatzopoulos is facing. If the judges deem that the charges still apply, then the 71-year-old will be called to appear before a special court.

Last month, the parliamentary committee investigating the purchase of four German submarines by the Hellenic Navy a decade ago issued a unanimous decision for the ex-minister to be indicted on criminal charges of bribe taking at the expense of the state and money laundering.

In an interview with Skai Television?s ?New Files? program last month, the ex-minister once again denied any wrongdoing, rebuffed allegations linking his assets to offshore companies and claimed that the parliamentary investigation was ?full of holes.?

Tsochatzopoulos conceded, however, that the submarine deal had involved ?middlemen who took kickbacks.? He reiterated calls for the parliamentary committee to summon all the members of the political and military council that approved the deal, including the current prime minister, who was then foreign minister, and former Premier Costas Simitis, to give evidence. He said that their testimony was crucial to ?clear the matter up.?