Greek ex-minister held on money-laundering charge

Apr 11, 2012, 9:20 PM

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – A former Socialist defense minister was arrested in Athens Wednesday on criminal charges of money laundering in connection with alleged corruption over a submarine contract.

Akis Tsochadzopoulos, 72, was remanded in police custody until Monday, when he will appear before a magistrate. A conviction on those chargee carry a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

Tsochadzopoulos, who was Greece’s defense minister from 1996 to 2001, denies any wrongdoing.

He was one of the top officials in Greece’s majority Pasok party for about 25 years, and narrowly lost a vote to become party leader _ and prime minister _ in the mid-1990s.

Tsochadzopoulos also faces a separate investigation for allegedly submitting false income declarations to tax authorities, a misdemeanor.

Debt-crippled Greece is being kept afloat by international rescue loans. Although a series of corruption scandals allegedly involving politicians broke out over the past few years, Tsochadzopoulos is the first high-profile former official to be arrested.

The highly publicized move came on the same day the country’s prime minister announced the dissolution of Parliament ahead of early national elections on May 6.

Officers took Tsochadzopoulos into custody at his mansion under the Acropolis, in one of Greece’s most expensive residential areas, and whisked him off to police headquarters. The house, whose purchase triggered the investigation, has been impounded.

Police also arrested Tsochadzopoulos’ cousin and his accountant, while his wife and daughter face charges of complicity to money-laundering.

The former minister had originally been investigated for alleged bribery, but the case was dropped last year because the statute of limitation had expired under Greek legislation that shields politicians from most forms of prosecution.

The Socialists expelled him from the party last year.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Greek ex-minister held on money-laundering charge