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Akis Tsochatzopoulos given maximum 20-year sentence

Former Pasok minister likely to be eligible for parole in four years

Court hands out jail sentences totalling 178 years to former Pasok defence minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, his wife, his daughter and 14 others to approve the purchase of Russian TOR-M1 short-range missiles

Former minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos and his wife Viki Stamati are escorted by policemen as they leave court in Athens, 7 October 2013 (Reuters) Former minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos and his wife Viki Stamati are escorted by policemen as they leave court in Athens, 7 October 2013 (Reuters) Akis Tsochatzopoulos, the former Pasok minister found guilty on Monday of money-laundering and taking kickbacks for armaments procurement programmes while in office, has been handed a 20-year sentence by an Athens court, the maximum allowed for the crime he committed.

The three-member court of criminal appeal in Athens also jailed 16 out of 18 of his coaccused, including his wife, former wife, daughter, a cousin and business associates.

Tsochatzopoulos, 74, a founding member of Pasok who very nearly became prime minister in the mid-1990s, was found guilty on Monday morning of pocketing €55m in kickbacks in deals for military equipment while he was defence minister from 1996 to 2001.

The court announced the sentences at 10.30pm that night.
The case centred on kickbacks that the former Pasok heavyweight received in order to approve the purchase of Russian TOR-M1 short-range missiles and German submarines for the military.

Tsochatzopoulos, he turns 75 in December, is likely to eligible for release in about four years' time, due to his age. As lawyer Ilias Sideris explained to Eleftherotypia, convicts over 70 only serve 2/5ths of the sentences handed out to them. While the law also states that convicts at that age must serve a minimum of five years, Tsochatzopoulos will be able to count the 18 months he spent in pretrial custody. He will also be able to reduce his sentence by taking on prison work.

He is already serving an eight year sentence after a court found him guilty in March of submitting false income declarations. The court also fined him €520,000 and ordered the seizure of his Acropolis-view home in central Athens.

In this 1998 photo, Akis Tsohatzopoulos, then defence minister, examines a submachine gun at an arms show in Piraeus (Reuters) In this 1998 photo, Akis Tsohatzopoulos, then defence minister, examines a submachine gun at an arms show in Piraeus (Reuters) The following were found guilty of aggravated, professional money-laundering:

Akis Tsochatzopoulos, former minister: 20 years
Yiannis Sbokos, former defence ministry secretary general: 16 years
Evfrosyni (Froso) Lambropoulou, Tsochatzopoulos' accountant: 13 years
Yiorgos Sachpatzidis, businessman: 13 years
Viki Stamati, Tsochatzopoulos' wife: 12 years
Areti Tsochatzopoulou, Tsochatzopoulos' daughter: 12 years
Asterios Economidis, manufacturer: 12 years
Oratios Melas and Konstantinos Antoniadis, representatives of the offshore company Morelia: 10 years each
Talita Maria Tsekoura, lawyer: 10 years
Nikos Georgoulakis, alleged owner of the Nobilis offshore company: 10 years
Yiorgos Konstantinos, lawyer: 10 years
Nikos Zygras, Tsochatzopoulos' cousin: 6 years

Sentences were also handed out to the following for money-laundering, without aggravating circumstances:

Gudrun Tsohatzopoulou, Tsochatzopoulos' former wife: 6 years
Nikos Karatzas, owner of Ianos bookshop: 6 years
Panagiotis Stamatis, Tsochatzopoulos' brother-in-law: 6 years
Fotis Arvanitidis, former MP and construction executive: 6 years

All those convicted in the case have been stripped of their civil rights for five years.

Two defendants, Spyros Hatzinikolaos and Pantelis Zachariadis, were aquitted.

The court ruled that the seven defendants already in pretrial custody must remain in prison to serve their sentences. They are: Akis Tsochatzopoulos, Evfrosyni Lambropoulou, Yiorgos Sachpatzidis, Viki Stamati, Yiannis Sbokos and Areti Tsochatzopoulou.

Lawyers for Areti Tsochatzopoulou pleaded with the court for her release, on the grounds that she is a single parent with three children and that her mother, Gudrun, is too ill to look after them.

Asterios Economidis was released from custody pending appeal on a bond of €50,000. He is banned from leaving the country and must report to a police station twice a month. 

Tsochatzopoulos' elderly cousin Nikos Zygras (76) was also released.

The others convicted in the case will remain free until their appeals have been heard.

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