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Greek ex-transport minister charged over car dodge

December 17, 2013

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A former Greek transport minister was charged Tuesday with driving an uninsured luxury car with fake license plates and making a false statement in an apparent effort to avoid paying taxes on it.

The arrest of Michalis Liapis, who belongs to one of Greece’s most prominent political families, would have been unimaginable a few years ago. It reflects a shift in authorities’ attitudes amid rising public resentment against a political class seen as responsible for Greece’s financial woes.

Greek police said Liapis was stopped after allegedly ignoring a road stop sign east of Athens. Police said the 62-year-old had previously handed his license plates over to tax authorities to avoid an estimated 1,320 euros ($1,814) in road taxes and was illegally using copies of the original plates.

Speaking after his arrest, the retired conservative politician said he had made a mistake.

“I erred and must pay the consequences,” Liapis said, although he still declared “I only took the car out to charge the battery.”

As incomes have tumbled and taxes have been repeatedly hiked amid Greece’s acute financial crisis, thousands of Greeks have handed back their car license plates to avoid the road tax.

Liapis was charged later Tuesday. He is to be tried on misdemeanour charges Thursday, and if convicted, faces a suspended jail sentence of between six months to five years. He was also fined 780 euros ($1,075) for driving an uninsured vehicle and other offenses.

Liapis served as transport minister between 2004-2007 in the conservative New Democracy government and later as culture minister. His late uncle, Constantine Karamanlis, was a former Greek president and prime minister who founded New Democracy in 1974.

According to his 2011 wealth declaration, Liapis and his wife owned 28 pieces of real estate.

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