Police exploring whether ex-minister’s wife had help escaping

A prosecutor on Thursday ordered a judicial investigation into the circumstances surrounding the escape of Viki Stamati, the wife of jailed former Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, from a mental health facility in Athens as an initial investigation suggested that the 52-year-old had help in breaking out.

According to staff at the Dromokaiteio Hospital, the padlock on the outside of the balcony door was found to be open in the morning. Only the supervisor of the Dromokaiteio nursing staff had a key for that padlock, the staff said. Other sources indicated that the shutters of Stamati’s room had been open for several days on approval by medical staff. One source said the ex-minister’s wife was free to walk around the grounds of the hospital and received frequent visits.

News of Stamati’s disappearance prompted Tsochatzopoulos to issue an appeal from Korydallos Prison, where he is serving a 20-year sentence for money laundering, for his wife to return. At around the same time, reports emerged that Stamati’s 8-year-old son had gone missing. The boy was later found at the home of a relative in Fthiotida.

Stamati, who was sentenced to 12 years for money laundering in the same case as her husband, had been receiving psychological treatment for depression since November 2013. Her escape from the Dromokaiteio came a few hours after her fifth appeal for release from jail was rejected.

Four guards who had been assigned to Stamati were briefly detained for questioning yesterday. Meanwhile, appeals court prosecutor Isidoros Dogiakos ordered a probe into the circumstances of Stamati’s escape as Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos called for criminal charges to be brought against anyone found to be involved.

A provision of a bill for the decongestion of Greek prisons drafted by Paraskevopoulos proposes that relatives of convicts who are also implicated in offenses should be put under house arrest rather than into custody. The provision could also be applied in the case of Stamati and similar cases, Kathimerini understands.

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