Ex-minister took kickbacks before deals, court hears

Akis Tsochatzopoulos, the former defense minister being tried for money laundering, allegedly received kickbacks for defense contracts as far back as 1997, before he signed the contracts in question, according to new evidence presented at the trial on Wednesday by a key prosecution witness.

Panayiotis Vlachos, a senior tax official who has probed most of the offshore firms and shell companies that were allegedly used by Tsochatzopoulos and his 18 co-defendants to launder kickbacks, on Wednesday drew the attention of the court to the depositing of 5.1 million French francs (the equivalent of around 777,490 euros) in a bank account in the name of Nikos Zigras, Tsochatzopoulos’s first cousin and erstwhile business partner. The existence of this account was unknown to judicial authorities until recently, Vlachos said.

Zigras’s lawyer said the 5.1 million francs “was Tsochatzopoulos’s money,” adding that his client could not remember why the sum had been deposited in his account.