Ex-minister arrested over felony

Former Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos will spend Easter in a security police holding cell in Athens after being charged Wednesday with money laundering, a development that the PASOK veteran labeled a ?pre-election gift? for his former party and New Democracy.

Pedestrians on the Dionysiou Areopagitou walkway that runs next to the Acropolis in Athens were greeted by the unusual sight Wednesday morning of an unmarked police car pulling up outside the luxury home of the former minister, which his wife bought a few years ago from an offshore company for more than 1 million euros.

On Tuesday, a prosecutor recommended Tsochatzopoulos face charges for failing to declare the property on his 2010 source of wealth form (?pothen esches?). However, Wednesday?s arrest concerned his portfolio of properties, not just the home on Dionysiou Areopagitou Street.

According to sources, prosecutors worked with the financial crimes squad (SDOE) to collect evidence that suggests Tsochatzopoulos profited from under-the-table payments for the purchase of submarines and missile systems when he was defense minister and that this money was distributed to offshore companies that were used to buy the properties. The former minister, who has been ousted from PASOK, denies any wrongdoing.

He pointed out in a statement that prosecutors have been studying his file for the last 20 months but only decided to demand his arrest on the same day that it was confirmed parliamentary elections would be held on May 6.

Sources said that the warrant for Tsochatzopoulos?s arrest was issued because he was considered a flight risk. Warrants were issued for another four suspects. Three were employed by the offshore companies alleged to be implicated in the process. The fourth is Tsochatzopoulos?s accountant. Sources said that another 10 people, including the ex-minister?s wife and daughter, are due to face charges.

Tzochatzopoulos is due to face charges next week.