New suspects in bribes probe

The former head of arms procurements at the Defense Ministry, a lawyer, a businessman, a bookshop owner and the ex-wife of former Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos have been asked to appear before judicial authorities to respond to questions in connection to the retired politician?s alleged corrupt practices.

A total of 16 people are already facing charges over Tsochatzopoulos?s alleged acceptance of bribes as part of defense contracts and the distribution of this money via various offshore firms and property ventures. However, judicial officials have decided that five more people could be implicated.

Key among them is former Defense Ministry official Yiannis Sbokos, who is being investigated in connection to his role in the purchase of arms and military equipment.

Lawyer Giorgos Konstantatos, businessman Fotis Arvanitis, Tsochatzopoulos?s ex-wife Gudrun Moldenhauer and Nikos Karatzas, the owner of the Ianos bookstore in downtown Athens, have also been called in for questioning. They are likely to give evidence next week.

The magistrate handling the case, Gavriil Mallis, has drawn up new charge sheets for a total of 21 suspects. It is expected that the 16 suspects already known to authorities will face further questioning starting this weekend.

According to the information amassed by Mallis, a network of corruption was in place from 1998 until April 2010. Tsochatzopoulos and his cousin, Nikos Zigras, played the key roles in this organization, according to the magistrate. The purpose of the network was to launder money that was obtained by the minister via bribes for the purchases of armaments while he was defense minister.

This involved the setting up of several offshore firms that were used to buy numerous properties in Athens and other parts of Greece. Beyond Tsochatzopoulos and Zigras, the other 19 suspects, including the ex-minister?s wife and daughter, are accused of being involved in the use of money that was knowingly obtained from bribes.

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