Former Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos had his life sentence for embezzlement reduced to a maximum of 20 years by a new court ruling today.
By a vote of 3 to 2, the five-member Appeals Court ruled that Papageorgopoulos had been an “accessory to the stealing of municipal funds while in office.” This crime carries a jail term of between 10 and 20 years.
He was initially convicted in February 2013 along with municipal treasurer Panayiotis Saxonis and the former general secretary of the municipality, Michalis Lemousias.
Papageorgopoulos continued to protest that he was not responsible for the embezzlement of 17.9 million euros, declaring the court’s verdict “a mistake.” The court had ruled that he was a key part of a scam that lasted between 1999 and 2008. It is believed to be the longest sentence given to any Greek politician convicted of corruption.
“I declare that I have nothing to do with this case,” he told the Thessaloniki court, according to Greek media, adding that “Some people will go to their graves weighed down by remorse.” while he pointed out that his trial had been turned into a “political process.”
Papageorgopoulos was the mayor of Thessaloniki, Greece, from 1999 to 2010 after serving as deputy sports minister in the early 90s.
Saxonis was responsible for forwarding the contributions from council workers’ salaries to social security funds. Prosecutors said he kept that money and, after taking a 10% cut, forwarded the rest to Lemousias who split it with Papageorgopoulos.
Lemousias had his sentence reduced from life to a maximum of 20 years as well. Saxonis had his 15-year sentence for embezzlement and money laundering upheld.