A Greek prosecutor decided on Monday to jail a former defence minister pending trial on money laundering charges in the most high-profile case against a politician in decades of corruption scandals.
Corruption and cronyism are endemic in Greece, but no politician has been tried or convicted in recent years, something that has fuelled popular frustration with established parties ahead of a general election on May 6.
The prosecutor and the judge both decided (on) a pre-trial detention for ex-defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, a court official said on condition of anonymity. He has been detained at police headquarters since his April 11 arrest and will be sent to jail on Tuesday, the official said.
Tsohatzopoulos, who has held various portfolios including defence since the 1980s, faces felony charges in relation to property deals and possible tax violations.
He denied any wrongdoing to the judge today, a source close to Tsohatzopoulos told Reuters.
Greek authorities have stepped up arrests of tax dodgers and offenders lately in an attempt to win popular backing for painful austerity measures that form the backbone of the debt-crippled country's EU/IMF bailout.
The 72-year-old Tsohatzopoulos, who last served as minister in 2004, is the only prominent politician to be arrested so far.
Tsohatzopoulos nearly became prime minister in 1996 only to be narrowly defeated in an internal party vote to become chairman of the then ruling Socialist PASOK party.
Since quitting politics in 2009, he has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in a string of affairs investigated by court prosecutors, including the use of offshore companies to buy a luxurious mansion in Athens and the sale of German submarines to Greece.
In 2011, PASOK expelled Tsohatzopoulos after lawmakers asked that he be indicted in connection with the submarine procurement deal with German firm Ferrostaal.
(Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; Editing by Mark Heinrich)