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The road of the money in the case of Tsochatzopoulos

20 May 2013 / 18:05:49  GRReporter
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New data on the path taken by 2.1 million euro were sent to the court in Athens in connection with the corruption scandal related to former Minister of Defence Akis Tsochatzopoulos.

He and another 18 related persons are in the dock for corruption and laundering of money obtained from illegal activities directly related to the purchase of three faulty German submarines for the Greek navy. It is believed that Michalis Patantos’ company MIE, which is also involved in a deal with submarines, invested some of the money used for the bribe. According to people familiar with the case, this information cpuld prove crucial to the trial but there have been no details on how it might affect the prosecution.

Earlier this week, Nikos Maytos, a former head of the economic police (SDOE) appeared at the trial for a third day in a row to testify without being able to explain from whom Tsochatzopoulos had bought his house on Dionysiou Areopagitou street. It is located at the foot of the Acropolis in one of the most expensive areas of the Greek capital.

According to official data, Tsochatzopoulos had authorized his wife to buy the house from the American offshore company Nobilis. Ten years earlier, Nobilis had purchased the property from the offshore company Torcaso, which is believed to have been owned by the former Minister of Defence. It became clear during the investigation that it was suspected that the two companies were owned by Tsochatzopoulos and that the transactions had been made in order to "launder" the millions received by the Minister in connection with the shady deals with the submarines.

The knot does not unravel despite the diligence of the prosecution authorities to find the underlying cause of the story. The vague explanations of the former tax director, Nikos Maytos, caused irritation among the three-member panel of judges. "Why do you allow gaps and shadows related to the case?," the chairman of the judicial council Christos Katsianis asked Maytos, who is a witness in the case and who stated that the tax services had not found who the owner of Nobilis was.

The hearing of the witnesses continues and new developments in the case are expected soon. According to Akis Tsochatzopoulos’ lawyers, the former minister must first be found guilty on charges of accepting bribes and then be prosecuted for money laundering.

The main objective of the prosecution is to prove that the last company-owner of the house on Dionysiou Areopagitou, Nobilis, belonged to Tsochatzopoulos, who had fictitiously sold the property to his wife in order for him to bring to light some of the black money. According to his official statements, Tsochatzopoulos had made his wife buy the house because he was 70 years old and the banks would not lend to him. Actually, the tax inspection shows that the house was purchased at a price even lower than the tax value at a time when the market prices were much higher than the tax assessments.

Meanwhile, Akis Tsochatzopoulos and his wife Vicky have been in prison for 13 months already. Before Ethnos newspaper, Vicky Tsochatzopoulou presents herself as a victim of the system and insists that she has nothing to do with her husband’s deals. She stresses before the Greek press that when she met her husband, for whom this is a second marriage, Tsochatzopoulos was already a wealthy man. "I do not assume family responsibility," she states in connection with the tax evasion and because of which they are in jail, awaiting the development of the second case related to the German submarines.

"I want the law to be enforced. I do not want favours. We bought the house with a loan in my name. If I am responsible for the purchase, why shouldn’t the officer at the bank who approved it be responsible as well? They gave me a loan, because a well-known man was next to me... Would they have granted such a loan to me if I were just Vicky Stamati (her maiden name)?" asks rhetorically the minister’s wife, who until recently was known for her expensive tastes and luxury clothes.

She talks a lot about the child who is now six and a half years old. She says how she waited for him every Sunday morning, how they were talking to each other and how for some time she had been trying to mislead him that his father and she were not in jail but at an airport or hospital. Most often, she was able to talk to him on the phone. "We even do exercises in ancient Greek in order for him not to forget his roots," Vicky Tsohatzopoulous says about her relationship with her son. As for her husband, who is 35 years older than her, she points out: "I loved him when I saw him and I am still devoted to him. He is my life. For me, our relationship has not changed from the first moment. I do not know about him."

Vicky Tsochatzopoulous’ interview was published just weeks after the start of one of the most significant trials against corruption that has been ever held in Greece. The contract for the construction and delivery of the damaged submarines cost the Greek state more than three billion euro. Among the political actors, Akis Tsochatzopoulos was one of the most blatant cases of politicians who had "accidentally" made money and who scandalized the public with a series of public financial pirouettes.

Tags: Crime newsTsochatzopoulosSubmarinesScandalCorruption
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