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Greek defense probe brings belated gains

ATHENS--A corruption probe into long-forgotten defense contracts has given authorities in Greece a small financial victory, along with the promise of revelations into decade-old graft.

The sum of over 9.0 million euros (US$12.3 million dollars) has been handed over to the state by Antonis Kantas, a former defense ministry official turned state witness.

Kantas, 72, was a deputy procurement director at the defense ministry from 1997 to 2002.

He has admitted to pocketing over 10 million euros from kickbacks related to the purchase of submarines, rockets, fighter aircraft and tanks.

“I took so many bribes that I cannot remember them all,” Kantas said in his testimony, according to press reports.

Kantas had served under socialist Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, 73, who was jailed in October for money laundering.

That 20-year prison sentence has loosened tongues after years of silence.

Kantas was originally arrested in September, but the bulk of his testimony began pouring out last week.

He has since named about a dozen other suspects, most of them businessmen and weapons intermediaries, but justice officials are hoping to net bigger fish among the Greek political elite.

“We are determined, any hint of corruption will be investigated to the end,” government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said on Friday.

A decade earlier, a parliamentary committee had found insufficient evidence to indict Tsochatzopoulos over the suspect purchase of Russian Tor-M1 anti-aircraft missiles.

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