Former Greek defense Minister Yannos Papantoniou, has been placed in pre-trial detention and charged with corruption in relation to an arms deal signed in 2003 with French technology group Thales, a judicial source said Wednesday.
The 69-year-old economist’s pre-trial detention, as well as that of his wife, on the order of an anti-corruption judge, comes after a two-day marathon testimony, which ended on Tuesday night following years of investigation.
The couple, who deny the allegations, is accused of laundering 2.45 million euros in bribes in Swiss bank accounts collected in exchange for awarding Thales a contract to modernise six Greek navy frigates.
Along with another former Socialist Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos – who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for corruption – Papantoniou is regarded by many in Greece as embodying the excesses of a political system that pushed the country into bankruptcy, necessitating a bailout by the the EU and other creditors.
A member of the successive socialist governments from 1994 to 2004, Papantoniou has already been handed a four-year suspended sentence for concealing the source of his income after nearly $1.5 million was discovered in a Swiss bank account belonging to his wife, which he twice failed to list on his annual parliamentary asset declaration.
In 2006, the former minister won a defamation suit against the French daily Libération, which accused him of receiving illegal commissions from Thales on the purchase of battle tanks and combat helicopters, as well as counter-terrorism technology for the 2004 Olympics.
Denying the charges, Papantoniou has accused Greece’s left-wing government of orchestrating a political witch hunt.
A spokesman for the government, which faces a general election next year, described the decision as “proof of the corruption and degeneration of the old political system.”
No date has been set for the beginning of the trial. Papantoniou faces up to twenty years in prison if found guilty.