Tsochatzopoulos’s cousin pleads guilty to money laundering on first day of ex-minister’s trial

The cousin of ex-Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, Nikos Zigras, pleaded guilty on Monday to money laundering charges that the former politician vehemently denied.

Zigras is one of 19 suspects that is accused of siphoning into offshore companies bribes that Tsochatzopoulos was allegedly paid as part of defense contracts signed between 1996 and 2001.

The firms allegedly bought numerous properties in Athens and Thessaloniki.

“I plead guilty to everything I admitted during my deposition,” said Zigras. “I apologize and ask for understanding and clemency.”

Money laundering carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years but Zigras is likely to face a less severe term due to the fact he has cooperated with the court.

Tsochatzopoulos denied the charges against him on Monday.

In nine hours of questioning before an investigating magistrate in July last year, Zigras is said to have implicated Tsochatzopoulos and his wife Viki Stamati, also standing trial.

According to sources, Zigras said he was replaced as manager of Tsochatzopoulos’s illicit dealings in 2004 by Giorgos Sachpatzidis, a businessman who is among the 19 suspects.

The ex-minister dismissed his first cousin’s reported comments to magistrates as the result of him being jealous of Tsochatzopoulos.