Jailed former minister linked to major criminal ring

The Hellenic Police have managed to dismantle the largest criminal organization in the history of the country, with the assistance of the Counter-Terrorism branch.

37 people are involved in the case of a huge extortion ring operating in the 6th wing of Korydallos prison, including former Defence Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos who was convicted for money-laundering and kickbacks, a young female lawyer, former police officer Christos Patoucheas who is also accused of collaborating with convicted terrorist Christodoulos Xiros and a number of known accomplices of terrorist Nikos Maziotis.

These 37 people are reportedly accused of a series of felonies, including their participation in a criminal organization that was planting bombs for money.

Akis Tsochatzopoulos’s involvement is reportedly related to the extortion of Gianis Sbokos, a former close associate of his in the National Defence Ministry, whom he had accused of owing him money.

Sbokos, the former head of arms procurements at the Defense Ministry, is currently in prison for his involvement in a large-scale corruption racket.

The former defense  minister is accused of instigating the bomb attack against a building owned by the Sbokos family. The activities of the ring, apart from extorsions and bomb attacks, included contract killings, some of which involved prison officials.

In addition, the members of the ring are accused of planning bomb attacks against the house of former director of Korydallos prison Maria Stefi and against the houses of a legal officer in Athens and in the country as well as agreeing on the contract killing of a senior legal officer, although they never went ahead with it.

According to authorities, a network of alleged henchmen and extortionists was formed by three inmates, namely, Panagiotis Vlastos, Giannis Skaftouros and Vassilis Stephanakos in May 2011, and later expanded to involve high-ranking judicial officers, well-known lawyers, as well as convicted former minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos.

The case file, including transcripts of defendants’ recorded conversations, was sent to a special anti-corruption judicial official, who will call the 37 suspects to testify.

Tsochatzopoulos’ alleged  involvement is related to an extortion attempt against Giannis Sbokos, his own one-time close associate at the defense ministry and the former head of the general secretariat for defense procurements.  During Tsochatzopoulos’ trial for money laundering proceeds from criminal activity, for which he was convicted, evidence presented by prosecutors showed that the former PASOK minister had repeatedly pressured Sbokos to pay him a significant sum of money he said he was owed.

Proto Thema