Former minister slams ex-PM and prosecutor

Defending himself in court Monday, former Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos vehemently refuted charges that he laundered millions of euros he had allegedly accepted as bribes for defense contracts and suggested that former Prime Minister George Papandreou had sought his downfall.

Tsochatzopoulos, who is on trial with his wife, daughter and 16 others alleged to have been part of a money-laundering network, described his prosecution as “despicable” and claimed that PASOK officials had asked a parliamentary committee to fabricate the charges against him.

The ex-minister said he had disagreed with Papandreou’s style of governance and that this clash led “Papandreou and his people” to seek his “personal annihilation.”

The former Socialist strongman described his case as unique, noting that “no other politician since the restoration of democracy has suffered such a coordinated assault.”

“I don’t have any illegal property or accounts,” the 74-year-old told the Athens Appeals Court Monday, referring to the network of houses, offshore firms and accounts detailed in the prosecutors’ report that led to charges being brought against him.

Tsochatzopoulos also lashed out at his first cousin and former confidant Nikos Zigras, who has admitted to managing millions of euros in kickbacks on his behalf and to helping launder the cash through the purchase of properties registered in the names of Tsochatzopoulos and the latter’s wife, Viki Stamati. Tsochatzopoulos described Zigras as “a very sick man,” claiming that he had suffered “psychological damage” in custody and had become “the instrument of Gavriil Mallis,” referring to the investigating magistrate handling the Tsochatzopoulos probe.

He claimed that Mallis too was “given orders” to pursue the case against him.

The ex-minister also repeated his appeal for the release of his wife from custody, describing it as “inhuman and extortionate.”