By Stefanos Evripidou
EUROPEAN ARREST warrants were issued on Wednesday in Greece for former interior minister Dinos Michaelides and his son Michalis in connection with the money laundering case against former Greek defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos.
The investigation involves the purchase by Greece of the Russian TOR-M1 surface-to-air missile system and alleged kickbacks given.
Dinos and Michalis Michaelides were recently called to Athens to respond to questions by Greek investigators on the case but failed to show up. The two released a statement saying they had explained the reasons why they didn’t turn up through their lawyer. They deny the allegations and state they are innocent.
The former Cypriot minister and his son are suspected of money laundering, involving alleged kickbacks of $10 million (€7.7m) believed to have eventually ended up in the hands of Tsohatzopoulos who signed the agreement for the supply of the missile system.
Greek investigators believe the millions in kickbacks were sent from one offshore company to Michalis Michaelides’ account to which his father Dinos also had access.
According to Cyprus News Agency, the Cyprus Republic has 90 days after the warrants have been served to decide whether to deliver the two wanted men after hearing any possible objections the father and son may raise.
Tsohatzopoulos, 73, was arrested in April 2012 on money laundering charges in the biggest scandal in Greece involving a politician.
His cousin, businessman Nicos Zigras, who was also arrested in connection with the affair, testified to Greek authorities last year that Michaelides transferred cash linked to the acquisition of the missile systems.
Cyprus’ legal services have been cooperating with Greek authorities on the case.
Dinos Michaelides was forced to step down as interior minister in 1999 during Glafcos Clerides’ administration after ombudswoman Eliana Nicoloaou 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.