Ex-minister’s property deal probed

Supreme court prosecutor Yiannis Tentes and the financial crimes squad are to investigate former PASOK minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos and his wife after a report by Sunday’s Kathimerini revealed that the couple had purchased a three-story residence opposite the Acropolis from an offshore company for 1 million euros just days before a change in the law would have landed the firm with a much bigger tax bill. Sources said that Tentes yesterday ordered the court of first instance prosecutor’s office to investigate whether there was anything untoward about the property purchase, which led to offshore firm Nobilis LLC avoiding a sizable tax bill. Tsochatzopoulos’s relationship with the firm is not clear. Financial crimes squad inspectors have already begun checking the ex-minister’s finances, those of his wife Vicky Stamati, as well as the two offshore firms, Nobilis and Torcaso, that owned the property on pedestrianized Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, which the couple bought with 450,000 euros cash and two mortgages worth 650,000 euros. In a statement yesterday, Tsochatzopoulos denied any wrongdoing and said that he and his wife had rented the property for three years before buying it and that they had not broken any laws. Although now largely a peripheral figure in PASOK, Tsochatzopoulos is one of the Socialist party’s most historic members as he helped found the party and served in seven ministerial posts between 1981 and 2004, most recently holding the defense and development portfolios. Tsochatzopoulos also made two unsuccessful bids for the party leadership. New Democracy attempted to capitalize on the latest revelation relating to the alleged corrupt practices of a PASOK cadre by suggesting that Tsochatzopoulos should be questioned by the parliamentary committee investigating the real estate exchange involving the Vatopedi Monastery. The conservatives also asked for the panel of MPs to be given more time to probe the matter.