Former Cypriot minister, son jailed in Greece over arms kickbacks

Cyprus’s former interior minister and his son were jailed in Greece on Wednesday for helping a leading Greek politician take millions of euros in kickbacks from arms deals, according to court officials and documents.

Dinos Michaelides [photo] and his son Michalis were found guilty of money laundering and each sentenced to 15 years in prison, court officials told Reuters.

A Greek lawyer who was a former Greek government adviser was jailed for life for bribery, and his wife to 12 years for money laundering, they said.

According to the charge sheet, the actions of the defendants had facilitated payments by a Syrian-born businessman to Akis Tsohatzopoulos, a founding member of Greece’s Socialist PASOK party who served as defense minister from 1996 to 2001.

Those payments were linked to a contract agreed by Tsohatzopoulos during his time in office to supply Greece with Russian made anti-aircraft missiles, the court papers said.

All four had denied the charges and their lawyers said they would appeal.

Tsohatzopoulos was jailed in 2013 for tax fraud and taking kickbacks for the arms deals. Details of lavish spending that emerged during his trial helped make the corruption case a symbol of the injustice felt by ordinary Greeks, who have seen pensions and wages cut during the economic crisis.

Michaelides, a centrist politician, served as interior minister in two Cypriot governments, the latest in the late 1990s. He was extradited to Greece in 2013.

The Syrian-born businessman, named in court as Fouad Al-Zayat, was tried in absentia and sentenced to life for bribery and 17 years for money laundering.

Under Greek statutes, a life jail term cannot exceed 25 years.