Zigras was used by the former minister as a bagman to manage a sophisticated web of Swiss bank accounts in order to launder millions in illicit payments. During prosecution, already seriously ill, Zigras turned on Tsochatzopoulos and testified against him. He was one of the the first key figures in the arms probe to cooperate with authorities (since then other figures have also worked with the authorities including Antonis Kantas, the former deputy of the MoD’s arms procurement department under Tsochatzopoulos). In testimony he gave in 2012, Zigras provided a detailed account of how the dirty money originating from foreign companies (German and Russian) was laundered, naming the banker in Switzerland who helped him set up the bank accounts and transfer the funds.
During his testimony to the Swiss investigators, who are visiting Athens to gather evidence over alleged money laundering schemes using Swiss banks, Nikos Zigras turned on his interrogators, effectively accusing the Swiss state of complicity in the looting of Greek public funds.
“I have expressed in practice my repentance for participating in the former minister’s criminal money laundering ring and have apologized to the Greek justice system and the Greek people. The Swiss state which built its economy on nurturing the biggest swindlers of the banking world must apologise to the Greek justice system and the Greek people because it was the country/washing machine for the money looted from the Greek people; because for so many years it shut its eyes and now it is pretending not to know anything.”
“The Swiss state must immediately return the stolen money and cease its hypocritical indictments and interrogations in order to have an excuse to withhold the money stolen from the Greek people. And the return of the funds should begin with the money found in Swiss bank accounts under my name and which I have been asking for a year and a half to be returned to the Greek state to whom they belong.”
According to reports, (link in Greek) one of the focuses of the Swiss investigation are allegations of money laundering by a Greek employee of the Swiss branch of Morgan Stanley.
Mr Zigras was also asked about bank accounts through which a woman claiming to be his wife transferred over 20 million euros. According to Zigras, the description matched that of Vicky Stamatiou, the wife of Akis Tsochatzopoulos, who apparently pretended to be acting as Zigras’s wife whom she had portrayed as a very wealthy businessman.
According to statements made by the Swiss prosecutor Urs Koehli, their investigation was launched in 2012 following requests from Greek investigators for information regarding suspicious Swiss bank accounts. The prosecutors said that Swiss officials were keen to determine whether any individuals in Switzerland should face charges and wished to avert the use of Swiss financial institutions for the purposes of money laundering.
When asked whether Switzerland was likely to return any of Mr Tsochatzopoulos’s or his accomplices’ black money to Greece Mr Koehli said he was not in a position to comment. According to Mr Zigras’s lawyer however, for that to happen the Greek Justice Minister would have to send an official request to his counterpart in Switzerland for the claim to be evaluated.
Today Mr Tsochatzopoulos is also due to appear before the Swiss prosecutors.