NEWS

Tsochatzopoulos calls on council members to testify at his trial

Three days before the scheduled launch of his trial for money laundering, lawyers representing former Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos on Friday reportedly called on the former members of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) that approved the purchase of submarines and Russian TOR-M1 anti-aircraft systems between 1998 and 2000 when Tsochatzopoulos had served in the defense post to come forward and testify that they too had rubber-stamped the deals.

The composition of KYSEA at the time included former prime minister George Papandreou, then foreign minister, and Costas Simitis, who had served as premier then. Other members of the former council include former deputy prime minister Theodoros Pangalos and several serving members of socialist PASOK.

Tsochatzopoulos is at the center of an investigation into a huge money laundering racket that prosecutors believe was used to conceal the traces of millions of euros in kickbacks from defense contracts. Another 18 people face trial in connection with the racket including Tsochatzopoulos’ wife Viki Stamati, his daughter Areti Tsochatzopoulou and several former aides and business associates.

Tsochatzopoulos has called several times for the former members of KYSEA to testify but his appeals have not been approved by judicial authorities as it is deemed that the defense contracts signed by the council were absolutely legal. The money laundering of alleged kickbacks that is alleged to have been carried out on the sidelines of the signing of these contracts is of greater concern to authorities.

Last month, the 73-year-old former socialist strongman was sentenced to eight years in prison for failing to accurately declare his income on wealth declaration forms in 2008 and 2009, a verdict that the former minister described as being “politically motivated.”