Nicosia - The Supreme Court ordered the extradition of former interior minister Dinos Michaelides to Greece yesterday for questioning related to corruption charges against a once-powerful Greek politician who is now in jail.
Michaelides would be the first Cypriot government or former government official to be extradited to Greece.
Greek authorities want to question him as part of a graft inquiry against Akis Tsochatzopoulos.
Tsochatzopoulos, a founding member of Greece’s Socialist PASOK party who almost became prime minister in the 1990s, is facing charges of accepting kickbacks for arms contracts when he was defence minister. He denies the charges.
Greek prosecutors allege Tsochatzopoulos, who was defence minister from 1996 to 2001, siphoned funds overseas. They say one of his co-defendants has alleged that Michaelides helped Tsochatzopoulos set up bank accounts, and that they want to question the former Cypriot minister about that.
Michaelides denies any wrongdoing.
He served as interior minister in two governments, the second stint in the late 1990s, and has since maintained a legal practice.
Greek authorities issued an arrest warrant against Michaelides when he failed to respond to a summons to appear in an Athens court earlier this year.
His lawyers had fought the extradition, appealing against a lower court’s verdict which said he had to go to Greece.
However, the ruling was upheld by the island’s Supreme Court yesterday, and he has no further right of appeal.
The court said he must be extradited within 10 days.
Tsochatzopoulos was sentenced to eight years in jail by a Greek court in March for an unrelated case of failing to disclose the source of lavish wealth and submitting false income statements.
Last month, the most damning evidence yet against Tsochatzopoulos was given at his trial by his cousin Nicos Zigras in which he accused him of accepting bribes for the purchase of a Russian missile system and German-made submarines. Zigras added that this money was laundered through offshore companies that were created specifically for this purpose.
His son Michalis will discover if he too will be extradited to Greece in a separate hearing at Limassol District Court tomorrow.
Michaelides’ stint as interior minister of Cyprus coincided with Tsochatzopoulos’ term as defence minister between 1996 and 2001.