ATHENS, Greece, May 3 (UPI) -- The pending corruption trial of a former defense minister captures the political culture of patronage that dominated Greece for decades, observers said.
Former defense minister, Akis Tsochatzopoulos, 73, a founding member of the Socialist Party, was arrested last month, becoming the highest-ranking Greek official ever held on corruption charges, The New York Times reported. Prosecutors accuse Tsochatzopoulos of taking at least $26 million in kickbacks for some of Greece's military equipment purchases and channeling the money through offshore accounts to invest in property.
Analysts said Tsochatzopoulos' case exemplifies how the political culture that dominated Greece's political landscape for decades in which governments helped spread the wealth when the government was flush and citizens tolerated. That system also helped drive Greece's public debt to the point that the country had to seek a foreign bailout in 2010.
When the money drained, Greeks turned on the culture of currying favor for votes and have become less tolerant, one observer told the Times.
"What usually happens if you have a patronage system, the clients tolerate corruption at the top, like with Tammany Hall," said Harry Papasotiriou, a political science professor at Athens' Panteion University, referring to New York's political machine. "But if the parties stop handing out patronage, then people are no longer as tolerant of corruption at the top."
Other analysts told the Times Tsochatzopoulos represented just a tip of the iceberg of a government that operated with seeming impunity.
Tsochatzopoulos has denied accepting kickbacks. Last weekend he threatened to reveal the names of people he said were behind the "unprecedented political persecution under a legal mantle."
Citing his 40-year career in Greek politics, he said, "I know everything."
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