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Curtain rod scam fans Greek voter anger

world Updated: Jun 16, 2012 02:46 IST

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Scandalous details of the lavish life of a former minister who spent 20,000 euros on curtain rods while cash-strapped Greeks buckled under tax hikes and wage cuts have driven anger against the establishment to boiling point before Sunday's election.

Akis Tsohatzopoulos, 72, a once-powerful Socialist arrested on charges of taking bribes and evading taxes, has become a symbol of the corruption that has bedevilled Greece in the 38 years of rule by the Socialist PASOK and the conservative New Democracy, the two parties backing the country's bailout by international lenders.

The affair has become a symbol of the injustice felt by ordinary Greeks, who have seen pensions cut and wages plunge by a quarter last year while their wealthy compatriots still enjoy their yachts and fancy restaurants, seemingly immune to the cuts that have pushed many into poverty and even suicide.

Anger stoked by the Tsohatzopoulos affair runs so deep that many Greeks are willing to accept the risk of an election victory by anti-bailout leftists that might lead the country out of the euro, just to punish an entrenched and out of touch political class.

"I lost all my money while people like Tsohatzopoulos were taking bribes and evading taxes, and you're asking me if I'll vote for them?" said Dimitrios Panagiotou, 71, a retired civil servant whose pension has been slashed by a third.

A wave of suicides triggered by financial despair over the past month stands in stark contrast to the reported luxury of the Tsohatzopoulos household - from his younger, second wife spending 20,000 euros on curtain rods to their lavish wedding night in the Four Seasons George V hotel in Paris eight years ago.

Tsohatzopoulos, who is accused of money laundering and using offshore companies to buy a luxurious mansion in Athens, is in jail pending trial. He last served as a minister in 2004.