Blackmail charges laid

The woman accused of blackmailing former Culture Ministry General Secretary Christos Zachopoulos and driving him to suicide is due to be taken to Korydallos Prison today after a magistrate decided she should be kept in custody pending a trial that could clear up why the official attempted to kill himself. The 35-year-old woman, Evi Tsekou, testified before a magistrate on Christmas Eve but denied blackmailing Zachopoulos, a close aide of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. Tsekou has been accused of having an affair with Zachopoulos and recording some private moments between the pair so she could use the material to blackmail him. Tsekou allegedly demanded 200,000 euros from the former official in order not to make the footage public. The 35-year-old denies approaching media outlets about airing the footage. She claims that she contacted journalists about plans to hire 148 employees at the Culture Ministry. Tsekou claims the hiring process did not comply with regulations. Tsekou was a contract worker at the ministry and her contract was due to end on December 31. Lawyer Christos Nikolitsopoulos told Kathimerini that he accompanied Tsekou to a TV station and a newspaper with the aim of revealing details about the alleged improper hirings. However, Tsekou’s testimony clashes with the explanations given by two of Zachopoulos’s close friends and a Culture Ministry official who claimed that the official had told them in October that someone was attempting to blackmail him. One of his friends, director Giorgos Mylonas, said that he knew of the official’s alleged affair with Tsekou, whose bank details were found on a piece of paper at Zachopoulos’s apartment. Meanwhile, Zachopoulos is still in critical condition in the hospital but doctors are growing more hopeful that he will pull through following his plunge from the balcony of his fourth-floor apartment in Kolonaki, central Athens, a week ago.