Greek ex-minister jailed for graft secures release

Former Greek politician, Akis Tsochatzopoulos, seen in 2013, a founding member of the socialist Pasok party and a close aide to late socialist prime minister Andreas Papandreou, has consistently denied any wrongdoing

Greek magistrates on Wednesday approved the release from prison of former socialist minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, one of the few prominent politicians jailed for corruption in the country, a justice source said.

The Athens appeals court panel voted 3-2 to release 77-year-old Tsochatzopoulos, four years into a 20-year sentence for money laundering.

However, his family claims that he cannot afford bail, set at 200,000 euros ($213,000).

Tsochatzopoulos has a heart ailment, and was in treatment at an Athens hospital when the ruling was released.

At the time of his conviction in 2013, judges said Tsochatzopoulos employed his position as defence minister from 1996 to 2001 to pocket bribes paid through offshore companies for the procurement of a Russian rocket defence system and German submarines.

The kickbacks were added to the final cost to the Greek state which ended up paying overcharges worth millions of euros (dollars).

Prosecutors say the illegal proceeds were used to make several choice real estate purchases in Athens by Tsochatzopoulos and members of his family.

Tsochatzopoulos, a founding member of the socialist Pasok party and a close aide to late socialist prime minister Andreas Papandreou, has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

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