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Politics

Ex-Defense Minister Says Prosecutors Out to Get Him, Denies Charges

ATHENS – Facing a raft of corruption charges, former  defense minister Yiannos Papantoniou said after testifying in the fictitious sale of a house to launder money that all the charges against him were politically-motivated fabrications.

Free after being released from a 17-month pre-trial detention period, he talked to an investigative magistrate about the purchase and sale of the house belonging to him and his wife on the Aegean island of Syros in 2016.

According to the indictment, the sale of the couple’s house was allegedly done as a ruse to hide dirty money from bribes officials said he took as defense minister in 2003 under the former but the now defunct PASOK Socialists.

He said all the charges were “legally unsubstantiated,” and part of a plan for the “political and moral extermination of opponents” of the former party brought by a former government “to facilitate its consolidation in power,” said Kathimerini.

In 2018, a case file against him probing allegations of repeated passive bribery was sent to the Greek Parliament, tied to reported kickbacks related to the C4I security system for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

Among the documents included in the file was nine pages of sworn testimony by Evangelos Vasilakos, former director general of the Defense Ministry’s General Directorate of Defense Armaments and Investment from April 2006 to October 2010, the paper said then.

The charge refers to an alleged bribe in excess of 150,000 euros ($183,413) which the former minister is believed to have taken for the system’s acquisition and installation, the report added.

According to the older file, Papantoniou is accused of laundering 2.8 million euros ($3.42 million) in Swiss Francs that he is alleged to have pocketed in exchange for securing a contract in 2003 to upgrade six Hellenic Navy frigates. He denied the charges.

Earlier, Papantoniou denied charges of money laundering during a lengthy deposition before a corruption prosecutor during which the state charged he had cost 400 million euros ($489.10 million) in damages in 2003 over a Greek Navy frigate armaments program.

Papantoniou reportedly claimed had the procurement contract not been signed, he would have been accountable for serious offenses and would have harmed the interests of the state but denied everything.

Prosecutors said they found 2.8 million Swiss Francs ($3.11 million) in in Papantoniou’s bank accounts which they believe he received as kickbacks to approve the upgrade of six frigates, the paper said.

His tenure followed that of another former PASOK Socialist Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, who was convicted of massive corruption in stealing scores of millions of euros from defense contracts but was released from jail after complaining he had health problems only to be later seen enjoying a seaside dinner of lobster spaghetti.

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