Greek court orders conditional release of Dinos Michaelides
A Greek court on Wednesday ordered the conditional release of a former Greek Cypriot interior minister jailed for helping a leading Greek politician take millions of euros in kickbacks from arms deals more than a decade ago, but his family says it is unable to raise the €700,000 bond.
In a majority vote, a court in Athens upheld a petition by Dinos Michaelides, 80, that he be released on health grounds and on account of his advanced age.
In February, Michaelides and his son Michalis were found guilty of money laundering and each sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The court ruled that under the terms of his release Michaelides would be barred from leaving the country and must appear at a police station twice a month.
But Michaelides’ lawyer Yiannis Mantzouranis said on Wednesday that his client’s release was hollow because the family’s inability to raise the sum, “nullifies the court’s positive decision”.
He added that his client’s health is deteriorating and that this decision “sends him back to prison”.
CNA (Greek Cypriot News Agency) reported that his family aims to appeal for the reduction of the bond amount.
His son had also appealed for conditional released but his request was declined.
The two men were accused of facilitating payments by a Syrian-born businessman to Akis Tsohatzopoulos, a founding member of Greece’s Socialist PASOK party who served as defence minister from 1996 to 2001.
The charges related to the purchase by Greece of the Russian TOR-M1 surface-to-air missile system and the alleged kickbacks given.
The former minister and his son were suspected of money laundering, involving kickbacks of €7.7 million believed to have eventually ended up in the hands of Tsohatzopoulos who signed the agreement for the supply of the missile system.
Greek investigators found that the millions in kickbacks were sent from one offshore company to Michalis Michaelides’ account, to which his father Dinos also had access.
Tsohatzopoulos was arrested in April 2012 on money laundering charges in the biggest scandal in Greece involving a politician. On October 2013 he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Details of lavish spending that emerged during his trial helped make the corruption case a symbol of the injustice felt by ordinary Greeks, who have seen pensions and wages cut during the economic crisis.
His cousin, businessman Nicos Zigras, testified to Greek authorities last year that Michaelides transferred cash linked to the acquisition of the missile systems.
Michaelides served as interior minister in two governments, the latest in the late 1990s. He was extradited to Greece in 2013.
He was forced to step down as interior minister in 1999 during Glafcos Clerides’ administration after ombudswoman Eliana Nicolaou questioned planning changes to land which Michaelides later bought and built a luxury home on.
Michaelides said at the time he was being “defamed”. He also served as interior minister between 1985 and 1988 for the Spyros Kyprianou government and between 1993 and 1997, again for Clerides.
The Syrian-born businessman, named in court as Fouad Al-Zayat, was tried in absentia and sentenced to life for bribery and 17 years for money laundering. (Cyprus Mail, 04/06/2015)