Former minister, three aides taken to prison

Former Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos was transferred to Korydallos Prison in Athens on Tuesday following his marathon testimony the day before in connection with an extensive money-laundering network he is believed to have used to conceal millions of euros in under-the-table payments from defense procurement deals signed when he was minister.

Tsochatzopoulos was escorted to the high-security prison in the morning by police and was reportedly put in a cell that had been previously occupied by Ephraim, former chief monk of the Vatopedi Monastery that was implicated in a controversial land swap deal. Later, three associates believed to have played key roles in the money-laundering network were transferred to the prison one by one after appearing before an investigating magistrate. Nikolaos Zigras, Tsochatzopoulos?s first cousin who is believed to have operated one of the three offshore firms implicated in the network, reportedly refused to respond to the charges brought against him, even as sources said that the evidence implicating him in the shady exchanges is ?unshakable.?

Efrosini Lambropoulou, the former minister?s accountant, reportedly claimed not to have known anything about millions of euros in under-the-table payments.

The third associate, businessman Giorgos Sachpatzidis, is also said to have denied the charges.

In eight hours of testimony on Monday, Tsochatzopoulos reportedly described as a ?coincidence? the fact relatives and aides were running the offshore firms that have been traced to him.

Another 10 suspects, most relatives of the former minister, are to testify on Wednesday.

Tsochatzopoulos?s lawyers Tuesday issued a statement, describing their client?s pretrial detention as ?excessive,? noting that the ex-minister could not be regarded as a flight risk as he is a well-known public figure. They are expecting him to appeal for his release soon.