Greece charges three ex-ministers over income declarations

ATHENS, March 6 Wed Mar 6, 2013 12:37pm EST

ATHENS, March 6 (Reuters) - A Greek prosecutor charged three former ministers on Wednesday for failing to declare the source of their wealth, the latest high-profile politicians in legal trouble as public anger rises at a political class widely seen as corrupt.

Among them is Yannos Papantoniou, a prominent Socialist politician who was finance minister when Greece joined the euro in 2001. He faces misdemeanour charges for failing to disclose in 2008 that his wife had 2.2 million euros in deposits in a Swiss HSBC account.

Former Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis, 53, was also accused of hiding from the state that his wife had deposits of 117,000 euros in a foreign bank account in 2007.

Papantoniou and Voulgarakis both denied the charges, which stem from a probe into the so-called "Lagarde list" of potential tax evaders published that sparked an outcry among Greeks angry at a wealthy elite partly blamed for dragging the country to the brink of bankruptcy.

Both told a parliamentary committee that looking into the Lagarde list of about 2,000 wealthy Greeks with money stashed abroad that the accounts belonged only to their wives.

Former Deputy Finance Minister Petros Doukas, a member of the ruling conservative party, was also charged with felony after the prosecutor refused to accept his explanation over the disappearance of 1 million euros from his bank account in 2010, court officials said.

Doukas, 60, has denied any wrondoing. He has said the money was transferred to an investment account, which was declared in his income statement.

Greek politicians are required under law to declare the origin of their wealth after parliament toughened legislation in 2010 soon after its debt crisis erupted.

In the highest-profile conviction of a politician in decades, a court sentenced former defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos to eight years in prison on Monday for false income statements in 2006-2009 and for failing to declare a neo-classical mansion when he bought it in 2009, the court said.

Tsohatzopoulos has denied wrongdgoing and plans to appeal.

Greece's coalition government has played up cracking down on high-level tax evasion and fraud as a top priority as it faces a backlash from an austerity-hit public.

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