BBC News

Greek former minister Tsochatzopoulos guilty of fraud

image captionAkis Tsochatzopoulos, seen here arriving for a separate trial in April, has become a symbol of official corruption in Greece

Greek former defence minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos has been found guilty of money laundering, in one of the highest-profile corruption case since Greece's financial crisis began.

Tsochatzopoulos, who was already in jail over a separate case, will be sentenced on Tuesday.

Akis Tsochatzopoulos served as a minister in several Greek Socialist governments over the past 30 years.

There has been widespread anger in Greece about official corruption.

Prosecutors in Athens said the former Pasok minister had laundered money and received millions of euros in bribes in relation to defence contracts agreed during his tenure as Greece's defence minister, from 1996 to 2001.

The contracts related to the purchase of German submarines and Russian missile systems for the Greek navy, the court heard.

As well as Tsochatzopoulos, 16 out of 18 co-defendants were convicted of involvement in the fraud, including his wife Vicky Tsamati, ex-wife Gudrun Tsochatzopoulos and daughter Areti Tsochatzopoulos.

The court said they had co-operated with the former minister to launder the bribes through property purchases and offshore companies.

Culture of impunity

The BBC's Athens correspondent, Mark Lowen, says Tsochatzopoulos has come to be seen in Greece as a symbol of official corruption, against a background of anger among Greeks weary of tightening their own belts to cope with the government's austerity measures.

Frequent allegations of corruption have been levelled at Greece's political class, which has enjoyed a culture of impunity, our correspondent says, and it's widely believed that this judgement is simply the tip of the iceberg.

Tsochatzopoulos was sentenced to eight years in prison in April, on separate charges of submitting false income declarations to hide his wealth.

In that case, he was also ordered to pay a fine of 520,000 euros ($705,640).

The conviction of Tsochatzopoulos is the latest in a series of corruption cases involving prominent public figures.

In February, a former mayor of the city of Thessaloniki, Vassilis Papageorgopoulos, was jailed after being found guilty of embezzlement.

There is immense public pressure to act, with widespread disgust among citizens that they have been pummelled by austerity while politicians are deemed to have got away with crimes for too long, our correspondent says.

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