Former minister claims ignorance, leaked extracts show

As former Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos gets acquainted with his cell in the capital?s high-security Korydallos Prison, leaked excerpts of his marathon testimony on money-laundering charges earlier this week suggest that he claims to know nothing about a web of shady bank transfers, property deals and offshore firms that have been traced to him.

Meanwhile, another 10 suspects, including the ex-minister?s wife, Viki Stamati, and daughter, Areti, are to face an investigating magistrate on Thursday in connection with the money-laundering network. According to sources, Stamati, who is the owner of a dubiously acquired home on the capital?s exclusive Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, is expected to claim ignorance about financial transactions relating to the couple?s assets.

Tsochatzopoulos struck a similar note on Monday during 10 hours of questioning by investigating magistrate Gavriil Mallis, according to leaked extracts of the 10-hour testimony. The ex-minister claimed to have no knowledge about three offshore firms that, according to a prosecutors? report, appear to have been used to launder under-the-table payments for defense contracts by buying and selling properties.

Many of Tsochatzopoulos?s responses to the magistrate?s questions, particularly those relating to offshore firms, are brief with the phrases ?I don?t know? and ?It?s a coincidence? recurring. His responses to questions about the provenance of his properties are more detailed though they failed to convince. Questioned about the property on Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, and why it was purchased at a fraction of its market value by Torcaso — one of the offshore firms linked to him — Tsochatzopoulos reportedly said that the need for costly renovations might have brought down the price or that the purchase had not been a wise investment on the part of the offshore firm. Grilled about the kickbacks he is said to have accepted in exchange for defense deals, the ex-minister insisted that there had been no such exchanges. ?I never accepted gifts or any type of exchanges for any reason during my political career and my terms as minister,? he was quoted as saying.