Former Pasok defence, finance minister Papantoniou and his wife have been remanded in custody over kickbacks, money laundering

Two corruption investigating magistrates and a prosecutor in the late hours of 23 October decided to remand in custody pending trial former Pasok defence and finance minister Yannos Papantoniou, and his wife Stavroula Kouraki, on charges of receiving a 2.8mn Swiss Francs kickback from an arms deal, the upgrading of six Hellenic Navy frigates in 2003, and money laundering.

Papantoniou was a top minister in the two governments of then Pasok leader Kostas Simitis. He is the second defence minister appointed by Simitis that has been jailed (in Papantoniou’s case, pending trial) over defence contract kickbacks, the first being Akis Tsochatzopoulos.

Following the marathon 16-hour interrogation of Papantoniou on 22-23 October, corruption investigating magistrates Ilians Zamanika and Yorgos Evangelou, along with Prosecutor Ekaterini Tsironi, ruled that the former minister and his wife must be remanded in custody, as they pose a flight risk.

Several arguments were included in the rationale of the warrant mandating the pre-trial incarceration of the couple.

The first is that they pose a flight risk, because they have Swiss residence permits and maintain a rented home in Switzerland, where they have lived over recent years.

Secondly, it was deemed that there is a prospect of them committing unlawful acts, including continuing with money laundering.

Thirdly, the couple did not consent to the opening of their bank accounts, or when they did they disputed the action.

When they exited the courthouse shortly after midnight last night, with their handcuffs covered by jackets, Papantoniou lashed out at the government.

“The instrumentalisation of the Greek judiciary endangers our very democracy. The Polakis dogma is implemented in a generalised manner,” he said, referring to Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis.

Polakis recently told a meeting of ruling SYRIZA’s Central Committee that the government must prod judges to expedite corruption cases and “put some people in jail”, in order for the party to win the next general election.

That caused an opposition uproar and charges of judicial meddling.

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