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Two defendants in the case claim that Akis Tsochatzopoulos was the recipient of the bribes

01 August 2013 / 17:08:25  GRReporter
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Earlier this week, former Defence Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos said that he was not ready to present his plea in connection with charges that he has received huge bribes from weapons supplies.

The remaining defendants in the case, however, have been constantly presenting data and facts to the judicial council which confirm the indictment. His cousin and former trustee Nikos Zigras as well as accountant Efrosina Lambropoulou attacked Tsochatzopoulos.

In practice, Lambropoulou repeated the testimony which she had given to the investigator during the pre-trial proceedings, stating that other people were also involved in the bribery scandal. She also admitted being guilty in this case as well and spoke about the role of Nikos Zigras in these vicious transactions.

"In 2004, Nikos Zigras told me that the Minister owned the house on Dionysiou Areopagitou Street," said Lambropoulou. She explained that, along with other close associates of Tsochatzopoulos, they were trying to find a citizen of another country with whose help to hide the name of the real owner of the property.

Lambropoulou said that up to that moment, she had not known anything about the house because she only dealt with issues related to the former Minister’s tax liabilities. In 2007, she herself found out that he was the owner of the luxury property. When the president of the council asked her why she did not attempt to thwart the process, Lambropoulou replied:

"I felt great respect for this powerful man. Anyway, I continued the thread of lawlessness, because a friend of mine who lives abroad was also involved in that case - Nikos Georgoulakis. My husband was his best man and Nikos trusted me implicitly."

She added that she doubted that Akis Tsochatzopoulos was the man who stood behind the offshore companies, but she did not suppose that the money might have been obtained in an unfair manner.

According to Lambropoulou, at a certain moment Zigras mentioned the name of former Secretary General of the Ministry of Defence Ioannis Sbokos in connection with the offshore company Nobilis which purchased the house under the Acropolis.

In turn, the cousin of the former minister described Tsochatzopoulos as "the moral and physical perpetrator and recipient of all the money" coming from bribes for weapons supplies.

"Everyone knows that the money was Akis’s. The only thing they didn’t know was its source." Nikos Zigras said that there was a period in which he had handled Tsochatzopoulos amounts ranging between 100 and 150 thousand euro per week and said that he was ashamed of his relationship with him.

Zigras rejected accusations that he organised his own system of concentration of bribes. "If I had been at the centre of this story and had had all this money, I would have run away and no one would ever have known where I was." He said that former Cypriot Interior Minister Dinos Michailidis, who was found murdered in Jakarta, Vlassis Kambouroglou, Syrian businessman Fouad al-Zayat and Ioannis Sbokos were also Tsochatzopoulos’s accomplices.

Zigras paid particular attention to the 32 million Swiss francs that disappeared from al-Zayat’s account. Fouad al-Zayat is currently being sought for. He also referred to the deal for the purchase of submarines, saying that Akis Tsochatzopoulos’s assistant Yiannis Beltsios deposited 28 million Swiss francs in two Swiss bank accounts and the former minister was the intended recipient of the money.

The judge asked: "How would you link this case to the submarines?" To which Zigras replied: "Akis told me that it was part of the programme for the submarines. Simple, very simple."

His plea started resembling confession when Zigras tried to explain his position to the court.

"Many people are asking what my profit is. There is no greater profit than the support he gave me with regard to my health problem (dating from 1999 - author’s note). Otherwise I would not be alive. But lies and deceit are greater than the benefit that I described." In his testimony, he repeatedly stated that Tsochatzopoulos had not told him that the money came from Michailidis, but that it had come from Arab investors.

In addition to various collaborators of Tsochatzopoulos, he presented data on his ex-wife Goudroun. "Prior to the issuance of the official documents on their divorce, I gave her 400,000 dollars. I put them in a safe at the Hilton Hotel in Geneva, in the presence of her brother. Akis was waiting for me at the Savoy, which is very close, in order to confirm the transfer of the amount. Gourdroun has never worked in her life."

Zigras "set up" other defendants in the case, such as businessman Asterios Ikonomidis, about whom he said that he had close ties with Tsochatzopoulos although he is now denying that. "Akis, Ikonomidis, Lambropoulou and Areti (Tsochatzopoulos’s daughter – author’s note) are suddenly claiming that I am the only culprit and call me a snitch. Some people seem to have forgotten that they came to my cell the day before my speech for the defence. Akis asked me not to involve anyone, and Ikonomidis promised me that he would help me. "

Zigras added that his daughters who live in Thessaloniki had been threatened and his lawyer was attacked on the evening after his testimony before the magistrate.

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