Former PASOK politician Akis Tsochatzopoulos dies
(AP Photo / Petros Giannakouris, File)
Akis Tsochatzopoulos, a once prominent socialist politician who held nearly a dozen ministerial posts for two decades but then fell out of favor, has been convicted and jailed in one of Greece’s most high-profile corruption trials, died on Friday, the successor to his former party confirmed. He was 82 years old.
Tsochatzopoulos had suffered from serious health problems for several years, especially after his conviction in 2013. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but was released in 2018 for health reasons. State broadcaster ERT said the former minister died in a hospital in Piraeus, the port of Athens, from organ failure and sepsis.
A founding member of the former powerful PASOK party, Tsochatzopoulos had been a close associate of the late Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou and was Minister of Defense from 1996 to 2001. It was one of 10 ministerial posts he held since 1981, when PASOK came to power and became one of the two parties that dominated Greek politics for almost three decades.
Born July 31, 1939, Tsochatzopoulos studied civil engineering in Germany, where he lived for about 16 years until the mid-1970s. His political career began in the early 1970s, when he became a member of a resistance party against the military junta which ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974. He was deputy without interruption from 1981 to 2007, representing the northern city of Thessaloniki where he grew up.
He became a founding member of PASOK with Papandreou, and was appointed Minister of Public Works in the first PASOK government in 1981. He held ministerial positions in almost all of the governments the party held until 2004, including the defense, interior, public order, development and transport portfolios.
In early 1996, Tsochatzopoulos launched a failed bid for the post of Prime Minister after the resignation of the already gravely ill Papandreou. His candidacy for the PASOK leadership after Papandreou’s death later that year also failed, but he continued his political career as a prominent party member and minister.
But it was his 1996-2001 term as Minister of Defense that would ultimately lead to his downfall. He began to be criticized by some for what critics had described – and he denied – was a lavish wedding to his second wife in Paris in 2004, and for purchasing a luxury apartment facing the Acropolis. in Athens in 2010.
The couple’s finances came under scrutiny and the former minister was arrested in April 2012 and remanded in custody. He was convicted the following year after one of Greece’s most high-profile corruption cases, for money laundering linked to bribes for large arms purchase contracts, mainly at the late 1990s, and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Tsochatzopoulos denied all charges.
In 2017, a panel of judges voted in favor of the former minister’s release on bail of 200,000 euros for health reasons, after his hospitalization and heart surgery. He said at the time that he could not raise the money from the bond.
He was granted early release again the following year and was released for health reasons in July 2018.
PASOK has since been part of a coalition, the Movement for Change (KINAL), which issued a terse message of condolence on Friday.
“Akis Tsochatzopoulos was a founding member of PASOK. He has held leadership positions in government and party, ”KINAL said. “But we know that for many years now, PASOK has differentiated – on the basis of its principles and values - its position against it in a complete and radical manner. Condolences to his family. “
Tsochatzopoulos is survived by his wife Vicki Stamati and their son, as well as a son and daughter from his first marriage.