By George Psyllides
FORMER minister Dinos Michaelides, held in Greece in connection with money laundering, told authorities that a large amount of money found in a bank account came from his son’s business activities that he was not so familiar with.
In his statement to Greek authorities, which was leaked to the media over the weekend, Michealides said 5.7 million Swiss Francs found in a Swiss bank account were the product of his son’s business dealings with Fouad Al Zayat, a Syrian-born businessman who has been accused of being an arms dealer in the past.
The account belonged to his son Michalis who had however, given a power of attorney to his father.
“My son and Fouad had mutual business ventures outside Greece and Cyprus,” he said, but he could not tell exactly what the money was for.
Earlier this month, Michaelides, 75, became the first Cypriot government or former government official to be extradited.
He will soon be followed by his son.
They were both wanted in connection with a graft inquiry against former Greek defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos.
Tsohatzopoulos, a founding member of Greece’s socialist PASOK party, is facing charges of accepting kickbacks for arms contracts when he was defence minister.
He denies the charges.
Greek prosecutors allege Tsohatzopoulos siphoned funds overseas.
They say one of his co-defendants, Nicolaos Zigras, has alleged that Michaelides helped Tsohatzopoulos set up bank accounts, and that they want to question the former Cypriot minister about that.
Michaelides denied any wrongdoing and described the allegations as “lies and fabrications.”
Michalides told Greek authorities on Friday that his son had a lot of business activities going on.
As far as he knew, the cash found in the Swiss bank account was the product of such activities in Libya, Pakistant, Kuwait and elsewhere.
“My son will tell you in detail. I was a minister and I could not participate in any deal,” Michaelides told Greek prosecutors. “They are my son’s fees and profit from joint business ventures I do not know well.”
The former minister said it was just a coincidence that the account in question had been opened on December 12, 2000 and he was given a power of attorney on February 6, 2001 – three days before €2.8 million Swiss Francs were deposited.
He claimed that the power of attorney was in case his son died.
The former minister could not tell Greek authorities why the cash had been deposited in a Swiss Bank and not a Cypriot one if it was fully legal.