November 9, 2011 / 6:18 PM / 8 years ago

Former German minister jailed for fraud

AUGSBURG, Germany (Reuters) - A former German government minister who lived as a fugitive for years and was at the centre of a bribery scandal was sentenced to 4-1/2 years in prison on Wednesday for fraud.

A court in the southern city of Augsburg sentenced Ludwig-Holger Pfahls, once junior defence minister, for hiding a fortune worth more than five million euros (4.2 million pounds) to avoid paying fines from a previous conviction.

Pfahls, a conservative who had admitted accepting millions of deutschmarks from an arms dealer to help smooth the delivery of armoured personnel carriers to Saudi Arabia, remained silent in the courtroom after the verdict was read.

Pfahls’ wife Viorica, 68, collapsed in the court as she was sentenced to two years and nine months. The prosecution said her bank account had been used in related transfers of funds.

Dieter Holzer, a lobbyist, received 3-1/2 years for aiding Pfahls, who had served under former Christian Democrat (CDU) Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Pfahls left the defence ministry in 1992 and disappeared in Asia in 1999 when an international warrant was issued for his arrest. He spent five years on the run before French police arrested him. He was extradited to Germany in 2005.

Writing by Brian Rohan; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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