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Greek ex-minister to face prosecution for tax blacklist 'cover-up'

Greek ex-minister to face prosecution for tax blacklist 'cover-up'
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Reacting to further fuel for anger: Greece’s parliament has approved taking legal action against George Papaconstantinou, who was finance minister from 2009-2011. Following an investigation, the members voted in favour of lifting his immunity from prosecution for having allegedly acting inappropriately with a list of supposed tax evaders while he was minister.

An MP with the Siryza Coalition of the Radical Left, Zoe Konstantopoulou said: “He kept it for himself, he put in his drawer and he never officially handed the CD with the information over to the proper state authority.”

The parliamentarians’ and the public’s pet peeve is that Papaconstantinou is said to have removed the names of three members of his family from the list of more than 2,000 Greeks.

Papaconstantinou defended himself saying: “I deny these accusations completely and absolutely. I have not acted in breach of faith, nor have I altered a document, nor was I in derelict in my duty. I am not to blame for all this country’s ills. It is not just that it is unfair to try to pin the sins of previous governments of both parties on me – it is something more than that. It is dishonourable.”

The list of Swiss bank account holders had been stolen from the HSBC bank and then forwarded in 2010 by France’s then finance minister Christine Lagarde – now head of the IMF.

But ordinary Greeks didn’t know about it until investigative magazine Hot Doc published its findings in September 2012.

The editor-in-chief Kostas Vaxevanis was prosecuted for invasion of privacy, but was acquitted in the end. He defended himself in October, saying: “I did no more than my job as a journalist. I unveiled the truth which the authorities were hiding. If there’s anyone who should be called to give account before a judge, it’s the ministers who covered up this list and who always claimed it didn’t exist. I just did my job. I’m a journalist.”

The former minister, an economist, was the architect of his country’s first austerity plan in 2010. When the case of the list came to light, his socialist PASOK party expelled him over the business of the three names reportedly struck off. If found guilty of wrongdoing he could be sentenced to ten years in prison.

The head of our Athens office, Stamatis Giannisis said: “Although George Papaconstantinou is the first Greek politician in the country’s recent history to face such charges, his indictment did not seem convincing enough to the average person on the street. They feel that the so-called Lagarde List is only the tip of the iceberg in a society accustomed to hearing about corruption and tax evasion, daily.”