Long-time PASOK minister and deputy Akis Tsohatzopoulos died on Friday at the age of 82. He had been hospitalized over the recent period, with the cause of death being heart failure.
Tsohatzopoulos came close to succeeding party founder and three-time premier Andreas Papandreou as prime minister in late January 1996, losing out to rival Costas Simitis in a vote by then ruling PASOK’s Parliamentary group. Simitis also topped him, in the final round of voting, for the post of party president during an extraordinary conference of party delegates held later in June.
He was subsequently appointed to the post of defense minister, overseeing the signing and implementation of a series of major weapons procurement programs by Greece’s armed forces during the height of his political power.
Nevertheless, his tenure at the ministry later resulted in public accusations of kickbacks and money laundering against him years later, after retiring from active politics.
He was arrested in April 2012 on charges of money laundering of proceeds from illegal activities, and was convicted the following October to a term of 20 years in prison. An appeal later sliced off a year from the sentence. He was freed in July 2018 due to serious health problems.
Tsohatzopoulos was born in July 1939 in Athens but raised in the northern city of Thessaloniki.
He studied civil engineering and engineering management in Munich, Germany, and later worked on public works projects in that country, as well as in Austria, Switzerland and Italy. Before returning to Greece in 1975, after the restoration of democracy, he had lived in Germany continuously for 16 years.