The Court of Appeal in Thessaloniki has sentenced to life imprisonment former mayor of Thessaloniki Vassilis Papageorgopoulos and former chief municipal secretary Michalis Lemousias. The most severe punishment and nine years in prison have been imposed on former cashier Panagiotis Saksonis.
Shortly before the announcement of the sentences, the three-member panel of judges found the long-time mayor guilty of direct involvement in repeated embezzlement through inaction during his term. The chief secretary was charged with incitement to repeated embezzlement and moral support for the falsification of documents.
The main accused in the case, Panagiotis Saksonis, was convicted of repeated embezzlement during his term, legalization of funds from criminal activities and falsification of documents.
The prosecutor suggested that the court should take into account the decent life of Papageorgopoulos and Lemousias but the three-member panel did not recognize any mitigating circumstances for any of the defendants.
Two former directors of the financial service of the Thessaloniki mayoralty were found guilty of misappropriation of official funds as well. They were sentenced to 15 and 10 years in prison.
The court found not guilty three defendants in this case, namely former deputy mayors for economic affairs as well as all former employees.
Papageorgopoulos and Lemousias were taken out from the court in handcuffs. The former chief secretary of the municipality took advantage of the presence of television cameras and said:
"The course of the trial has revealed that there is no evidence and no charges. Unfortunately, we have entered the era of Roman persecutions".
The former mayor, the chief secretary and the cashier were taken to the prison near Diavata in the vicinity of Thessaloniki.
After the interrogation, Vassilis Papageorgopoulos asked to speak and turned to the court: "With all due respect I repeat that I have nothing to do with the case. I am sure that some will die with scruples". In response, the chairman of the judicial council George Apostolakis said, "In any case, we will not be those people".
The grounds of the decision are:
"The mayor had appointed his closest collaborator secretary. They were very close and a "team" in the eyes of society. Michalis Lemousias sought a source of money in the economic department of the municipality.
He incited cashier Panagiotis Saksonis to repeatedly and indefinitely embezzle funds in favour of the municipal faction "Anagenisi" (Revival), whose leader was Vassilis Papageorgopoulos. The chief secretary failed to force the cashier to make the embezzlement by assuring him that the management of the municipality was in his hands.
Vassilis Papageorgopoulos was aware of all these actions, but he was standing aside, pretending he did not know about them. He assigned the implementation of the plan to the chief secretary thus triggering the embezzlement "machine". The money was allocated among the three of them. Later, Saksonis asked to receive 10% of the amounts embezzled," said the presiding judge in announcing the decision.
"Making public the cases in which Michalis Lemousias was involved did not affect the relations between the two men. This means that the two were sharing an important secret, which drove them to hold onto one another," he added.
Thessalonians accepted the news with mixed feelings. Some who had followed the trial expressed their support for the former mayor. The majority of them, however, expressed their satisfaction with the court decision.
"I do not care if he will be in prison. The important thing is to return the money to the municipal funds".
"Immediate confiscation of their property and opening the bank accounts of their relatives," are just some of the comments in the social media.
Shortly after the announcement of the court decision, Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris said, "It is our responsibility now to demand the return of the money to the funds of the municipality".
Associates of the former mayor made public a statement he had made shortly before being taken to the prison in Diavata. "Without any evidence and although it has been proved that the employee had been embezzling money some years before I took up the mayor's office, the court has sentenced me today to life imprisonment. Obviously, the case has become a political process with the sole purpose of satisfying a trend that wants blood from politicians".
He believes that "no Greek and no citizen of Thessaloniki believes that Vassilis Papageorgopoulos has betrayed them" and stated that he will be awaiting the decision of the second instance court after the appeal of today's verdict.
Tags: Crime newsCourt of Appeal in ThessalonikiVassilis PapageorgopoulosLife imprisonment
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