ATHENS – Former Greek defense minister Yiannos Papantoniou and his wife Stavroula Kourakou were taken into custody after denying charges of money laundering during a lengthy deposition before an investigating magistrate and prosecutor.
He denied charges he laundered some 2.4 million euros ($2.75 million) in kickbacks from a contract to upgrade six Hellenic Navy frigates signed in 2003 when he headed the Defense Ministry and claimed that revoking the contract would have resulted in 3 million euros ($3.44 million) in damages to the Greek state, said Kathimerini.
Kourakou also denied the charges during her testimony, which lasted for four hours after her husband testified for 18 hours in all.
Judicial authorities are also expected to ask Parliament to determine whether bribery charges against Papantoniou have expired under the statute of limitations. If not, the case file will be returned to the judiciary and the former minister could face additional charges. The statute of limitations does not apply to money laundering.
The state charged he had cost 400 million euros ($458.37 million) in damages in 2003 over 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 ($2.81 million) in in Papantoniou’s bank accounts which they believe he received as kickbacks to approve the upgrade of six frigates, Kathimerini reported. 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 frolicking.
The Papantoniou case file was said to have tied money deposited in the bank account of a civil engineer friend of the former minister four months after the contract was signed with bank withdrawals made by the then representative of the French firm involved in the procurement program. The civil engineer is believed to have served as a cover for Papantoniou.
Papantoniou said the charges were an “outrageous construction” attempting to link cash withdrawals and deposits of two people who allegedly didn’t know each other.