ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Three Greek ex-Cabinet ministers were charged Wednesday with alleged breaches of wealth declaration laws, amid a crackdown on former public officials by judicial authorities in the recession-mired country.
The charges came two days after former Socialist Defense Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos was jailed for eight years over inaccurate income declarations. Athens prosecutors have now brought similar charges against Yiannos Papantoniou, a Socialist and former defense and finance minister; Giorgos Voulgarakis, an ex-public order, culture and merchant marine minister; and former Deputy Finance and Foreign Minister Petros Doukas. Voulgarakis and Doukas were both of the conservative New Democracy party.
Those two mainstream parties successively governed Greece for the past four decades and are widely blamed for the country's acute financial woes. Papantoniou, who oversaw Greece's entry to the eurozone in 2001, is accused of not listing in his annual wealth declaration a $2.2 million account held by his wife in a Swiss bank. Voulgarakis also allegedly failed to declare a €117,000 account belonging to his wife, while Doukas is accused of failing to adequately explain a €1 million reduction in his bank accounts.
All three deny any wrongdoing. Parliament has already lifted their immunity from prosecution, clearing the way for the charges to be brought against them. After years of budget overspending and dodgy account-keeping, Greece lost access to international money markets in 2010, and has since been kept from bankruptcy by international rescue loans. In exchange, its creditors demanded deep spending cuts that have tamed runaway budget deficits but radically reduced incomes and ended more than a decade of consumption-fuelled affluence. The country is in a sixth year of recession, with unemployment at a record-high 27 percent.
Public officials have come under closer scrutiny from judicial authorities, who themselves have suffered extensive pay cuts and been given broader powers to investigate corruption cases after the financial crisis struck. Last week, a former mayor of Greece's second-largest city, Thessaloniki, was jailed for life over a €17 million ($22 million) embezzlement scandal.
Tsochadzopoulos, a former top Socialist official who nearly became prime minister in the 1990s, also is due to stand trial later this year on more serious corruption and money-laundering charges related to a submarine contract.