Former Cypriot minister held in Greek graft trial

September 18, 2013

ATHENS (Reuters) - A former Cypriot minister was ordered detained on Wednesday by a Greek prosecutor pending his trial in relation to a graft investigation against a once-powerful Greek politician facing corruption charges in Athens.

Dinos Michaelides, who once served as a Cyprus interior minister and was extradited from the island in the past week, faces charges of aiding money laundering by Akis Tsohatzopoulos, a Socialist politician who served in Greece's PASOK administration as defense minister from 1996 to 2001.

Michaelides is accused of being an intermediary with his son on handling kickbacks for Tsohatzopoulos in the purchase of a Russian surface-to-air missile defense system while Tsohatzopoulos was in office. Michaelides denies all charges.

Greek prosecutors say that part of the 10 million Swiss francs unaccounted for in Tsohatzopoulos's bank transactions ended in accounts administered by Michaelides and his son, who has also been ordered to appear before a magistrate in Greece to respond to the same charges.

In an extradition hearing on the island, Michaelides' son also denied any accusation of wrongdoing.

Tsohatzopoulos, who has already been convicted by the Greek justice system for tax fraud, has pleaded not guilty. Michaelides's involvement in kickback allegations stem from allegations made by a relative of Tsohatzopoulos.

Michaelides, a centrist politician, had served as interior minister in two Cypriot governments, the latest in the late 1990s.

(Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Alison Williams)