Cyprus Mail

Court slaps €500,000 in damages on Michaelides

Former Cyprus interior minister Dinos Michaelides

By Angelos Anastasiou

AN ATHENS court yesterday awarded €500,000 in damages to the Greek state payable by former Cyprus interior minister Dinos Michaelides and his son Michalis, for their involvement in the case of legalising ill-gotten funds which landed each a 15-year jail sentence.

The prosecution had asked for €1m as moral damages, as well as 50 million Swiss francs (€40m) as compensation for the monetary losses incurred by the Greek state by kickbacks paid to Greece’s then-Defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos for the purchase of a Russian TOR-M1 missile-defence system.

The court awarded the state €500,000 in moral damages, but ruled that monetary losses fell outside its remit and referred the case to civil courts.

Defence attorneys said they consider the ruling harsh, which they plan to appeal with the civil courts.

Michalis Michaelides’ lawyer, Christos Stathis, argued that this “unfair decision” reminded him of the story of the man who killed his father and asked for leniency from the courts because he was an orphan.

“That is, the Greek state suffered losses by its own official – Akis Tsohatzopoulos – who created all the damages, so the money should be asked of him,” Stathis said.

Dinos and Michalis Michaelides’ defence lawyers plan to submit an appeal against the ruling on Monday or Tuesday, in which case an appeals court will re-examine the case.

Last Wednesday, father and son were found guilty of bribery and money laundering in relation to the purchase of TOR-M1 anti-aircraft missiles by Greece during Tsohatzopoulos’ term as Greek defence minister, and were each sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Defence lawyers for Dinos Michaelides filed a motion for leniency with the court, citing his “clean record and good behaviour”, which the court rejected.

The former minister and his son were suspected of money laundering, involving kickbacks of €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 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. In October 2013, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

His cousin, businessman Nicos Zigras, testified to Greek authorities last year that Michaelides transferred cash linked to the acquisition of the missile systems.

Dinos Michaelides 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 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.

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