Zigras accuses another ex-minister

Nikos Zigras, the first cousin and one-time confidant of former Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, Wednesday continued his marathon testimony before a magistrate investigating a massive money-laundering network, implicating several more suspects including a former Cypriot minister.

According to sources, Zigras claimed that Dinos Michailidis, a former Cypriot interior minister, had played a key role in transferring millions of euros in illegal payments Tsochatzopoulos is alleged to have secured for defense procurements. Zigras also implicated Yiannis Sbokos, the general secretary of the Greek Defense Ministry during Tsochatzopoulos?s stint as minister from 1996 to 2001, as well as Al Said Fouad and Vlassis Kambouroglou, two businessmen who already have been identified as suspects in a damning prosecutors? report that led to Tsochatzopoulos?s arrest in April. Regarding Sbokos, Zigras allegedly claimed that he had pocketed such great sums that he still owes money to Tsochatzopoulos.

According to Zigras, Michailidis was a close friend of Tsochatzopoulos and allegedly had been instrumental in transferring the money from the kickbacks, not through a web of offshore firms identified in the prosecutors? report, but by carrying the money in suitcases. Michailidis?s son Michalis is also said to have helped his father with some of the cash transfers, Zigras said in his testimony.

Michailidis was quick to rebuff the allegations leveled against him by Zigras and described them as ?groundless claims? and ?figments of the imagination,? according to Cyprus state TV channel RIK.

Zigras, who earlier this week allegedly admitted to managing millions of euros in kickbacks for Tsochatzopoulos and to helping launder the money through the purchase of properties registered in the names of the ex-minister or his wife, Viki Stamati, allegedly dug even more dirt on his cousin Wednesday. Zigras allegedly accused Tsochatzopoulos of spending 2.5 million euros in benefits before each election campaign to secure his seat in Thessaloniki. For instance, he allegedly offered tickets to soccer games by local club PAOK to members of the local Roma community and to Greeks from the Black Sea region.

Zigras is also said to have told the magistrate that Tsochatzopoulos?s family had been fully aware of the kickbacks and money-laundering network.

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