ATHENS, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- An Athens court sentenced on Monday evening Greek former Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos to twenty years imprisonment for money laundering and receiving kickbacks from state armaments' purchases in one of the country's most prominent corruption scandals to be brought before justice in recent years.
The Criminal Court of Appeals found the 73-year-old former official guilty of receiving multi-million-euro bribes during his term at the ministry in the period between 1997 and 2001 for purchases of German and Russian submarines and anti-aircraft missiles.
It is estimated that the kickbacks accumulated to more than 50 million euros (67.8 million U.S dollars). During the investigation, some 18 million euros have been traced to various off-shore companies set up by the former minister and his associates.
At the end of the five-month trial, 16 of a total of 19 defendants were found guilty along with Tsochatzopoulos on Monday and sentenced to 5 to 12 years in prison, including his wife, his daughter and his ex- wife.
Law experts interpreted the verdict as a message that corruption - which was wide spread for decades in Greece, according to Greek and international reports - is no longer tolerated in a country hit hard by a severe debt crisis.
It was a dramatic fall for a politician who served at top ministerial posts for almost three decades, analysts noted.
Cypriot former Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides and his son Michalis were extradited to Greece this autumn to be tried in connection with the case.
Since his arrest in spring 2012, Tsochatzopoulos repeatedly denied all charges, claiming that his persecution is politically motivated.
In March this year he was sentenced to eight years in prison for tax evasion, and one of his luxurious properties under the Acropolis hill was confiscated.
In addition to the Tsochatzopoulos affair, over the past year Greek authorities have brought before judges several high profile former state officials accused of corruption in a sign that things are changing, as local media highlighted.