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Former Greek defense minister arrested over money laundering

(Xinhua)

10:15, April 12, 2012

ATHENS, April 11 (Xinhua) -- Former Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos was arrested on Wednesday over money laundering in central Athens outside his home under the Acropolis hill, local media reported.

The veteran politician who has served in several ministerial posts from the 1980s to 2004 as socialist PASOK party official, now faces trial for not failing to include a new house in his income declaration two years ago.

Tsochatzopoulos argued that the house was bought after he had made the declaration, but a parliamentary committee gave the green light to judicial authorities to continue investigations for tax-dodging.

According to judicial sources the former minister purchased real estate properties via money laundering, using kickbacks granted to him from German firm "Ferrostaal" in order to secure the sale of four submarines to Greece a decade ago.

The judicial investigation started after a string of media reports since 2010 claiming that Tsochatzopoulos had received up to 8 million euros for his "advisory role" in the 1.1 billion euro worth deal through deposits in bank accounts in Switzerland.

Firmly denying any wrongdoing, he sued newspapers and magazines in Greece and Germany, as he was expelled from the party.

According to Greek media reports on Wednesday, warrants have been issued for a number of his associates implicated in the scandal.

Tsochatzopoulos faces an up to 25 years in jail if he was found guilty.

In any case his arrest is regarded as the most high-profile case against a Greek politician in years and amidst a period when Greek citizens harbor strong feelings against corruption which is considered as a key factor behind the debt crisis that has hit the country since 2009.

The debt crisis brought Greece to the brink of default and the previous government of socialist former Prime Minister George Papandreou struck a deal with international lenders to support Greece with multi-billion rescue loans in return of an austerity and reform measures.

The salary cuts, tax hikes and structural reforms are expected to continue after the snap general elections that are due to be officially announced later on Wednesday for early May.

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