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Greek former transport minister sentenced for driving uninsured car

AFP , Monday 30 Dec 2013
Former transport minister Michalis Liapis, 62, arrives at a police station in northern Athen, Tuesday, 17 December 2013 (Photo: AP)
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A wealthy Greek former transport minister was given a suspended four-year prison sentence on Monday after being caught driving an unlicensed luxury jeep, court officials said.

Prominent conservative Michalis Liapis, 63, was also sentenced to a fine of 3,000 euros ($4,100) for flouting traffic laws he once vowed to uphold as the government's transport minister.

The case has embarrassed the conservative-led coalition government which is struggling in the polls ahead of local elections in May.

Liapis, a nephew of ruling New Democracy party founder Constantine Karamanlis, was ousted from the movement earlier this month after he was caught driving his uninsured car, which also bore fake license plates.

Liapis told police that like many Greeks he had been hit by the economic crisis and his car was not insured because he could not afford to pay tax on it.

But he then caused further outrage by failing to appear in court and flying to Asia for a luxury vacation a few days after his arrest.

His lawyers have appealed the sentence.

Liapis owns nearly 30 real estate properties and has an annual income of nearly 110,000 euros, according to his tax statements that were reported in the press.

The state prosecutor on Monday insisted on a conviction for Liapis, arguing that the former minister was "drawn to crime".

This was an apparent reference to a 2008 case in which Liapis had been cited in reports as a possible suspect in a major probe against German engineering giant Siemens, which was accused of paying bribes to politicians to secure lucrative contracts.

Liapis, who was culture minister at the time, denied taking a free trip paid by the company and was never officially implicated in the investigation.

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