Ex-minister Tsochatzopoulos denies charges as money laundering trial begins

Ex-Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos denied on Monday accepting bribes when in power and laundering the money he allegedly received via offshore companies.

Tsochatzopoulos, along with 18 others that include his wife Viki Stamati, face charges of money laundering.

Stamati was with Tsochatzopoulos as they appeared at Athens Appeals Court on Monday for the first day of the trial.

The ex-minister’s daughter, Areti, who is also among the accused, was one of several suspects that did not appear.

Tsochatzopolos insisted that he did not take any money while at the Defense Ministry between 1996 and 2001.

“I categorically deny the charges, which attempt to create the impression that there is criminal organization, a gang, which has the aim of laundering money and that supposedly behind all this is the Greek defense minister, which during six years did the best that he could for the country,” Tsochatzopoulos told the court.

The ex-PASOK veteran asked the court to grant his wife bail, which has been refused so far.

Tsochatzopoulos has asked for other members of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA), including former Prime Minister Costas Simitis, to appear in court as they approved the two procurement contracts being examined by prosecutors.

In total, Tsochatzopoulos’s defense team has asked for 70 witnesses to be heard. The court will have the final decision on who will be called.

Public prosecutors are asking for penalties of 1 million euros to be imposed on each of the defendants and for the alleged bribes to be returned to state coffers.

The two deals in question were worth about 3 billion euros and it is thought that some 160 million euros were paid in bribes.

Judges adjourned the trial until May 8.

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