A Greek court sentenced a former defence minister to eight years in prison on Monday for failing to disclose the source of lavish wealth that made him a symbol of the corruption that has plagued the country.
Once a powerful Socialist politician who almost became prime minister in the 1990s, Akis Tsohatzopoulos has been in jail pending trial since April last year as prosecutors probed allegations of fraudulently acquired wealth.
In the highest-profile conviction of a politician in decades, the Athens appeal court found his income statements between 2006 and 2009 were false and he failed to declare a neo-classical mansion at the foot of the ancient Acropolis when he bought it in 2009.
Tsohatzopoulos told reporters shortly before he was sent back to prison that he would appeal the sentence.
"The truth was covered up and this is a legal failure. It is an unacceptable decision," he said.
During the trial, details emerged of an opulent lifestyle that appeared to confirm popular impressions of a self-serving elite that regarded public office as an avenue to personal enrichment.
Soaring unemployment and painful austerity measures have deepened popular anger against the generation of politicians who led Greece into a debt crisis in 2009.
The government is trying to appease some of that anger by stepping up efforts to crack down on high-level tax evasion and fraud.
On Thursday, a former mayor of Thessaloniki, the country's second city was jailed for life for embezzling about 20 mln euros in the first big corruption trial since the crisis erupted.
Tsohatzopoulos faces a further trial on charges of money laundering and using offshore companies to buy the luxurious mansion in Athens.
In addition to the prison term, he was also fined 520,000 euros and the mansion will be confiscated.
Tsohatzopoulos nearly became prime minister in 1996 but was narrowly defeated in an internal party vote to become chairman of the then-ruling Socialist PASOK party, now a junior partner in Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's ruling coalition.
He last served as minister in 2004 and quit politics in 2009.
He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in a series of affairs investigated by prosecutors, including the use of offshore companies to buy the mansion and the purchase of German submarines by Greece.
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