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Greek Parliament Abandons Tax List Probe

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, the former French finance minister

Quietly and without attention, Greece’s Parliament’s institutions and transparency committee decided by a narrow majority to stop an investigation into why former finance ministers George Papaconstantinou and  Evangelos Venizelos failed to check a list of 2,059 Greeks with $1.95 billion in deposits in the Geneva branch of HSBC for possible tax evaders.
The list, compiled from a CD stolen from the bank by an employee, was given to Papaconstantinou in 2010 by then French finance minister Christine Lagarde, who is now head of the IMF.
Papaconstantinou said it went missing and Venizelos said he couldn’t act on it because it was stolen data, although Lagarde said other European countries had checked the full list for names of depositors in their countries to check for tax evasion.
Instead of investigating Papaconstantinou and Venizelos, who is now the leader of the PASOK Socialist party, one of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ coalition partners, the government is prosecuting for a second time a journalist who released the names, charging him with invasion of privacy of the depositors. He was acquitted the first time. With one exception, New Democracy’s Manolis Kefaloyiannis, lawmakers from the coalition parties that includes the Democratic Left, voted to block the probe and got support from deputies of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party.
The decision does not, however, preclude a special panel of MPs doing an investigation again although the Parliament is controlled by the government. The committee rejected a request by the major opposition party Coalition of the Radical Left, SYRIZA, to find out why authorities failed to investigate the list and still hasn’t. The Democratic Left proposed Parliament set up an investigative committee. SYRIZA said it would try to get support for such a probe.

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