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Former Greek FM Faces Bank List Probe

Former Greek finance minister George Papaconstantinou is under fire
Former Greek finance minister George Papaconstantinou is under fire for his handling of a Swiss bank list

Facing an investigation into whether he tampered with a list of more than 2,000 Greeks with $1.95 billion in secret accounts in a Swiss bank by removing the names of three relatives, former Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said he is being set up as a fall guy.
The probe is into the now notorious so-called Lagarde List, named for former French finance minister Christine Lagarde, now head of the International Monetary Fund, one of Greece’s chief lenders. She provided the names on a CD to Papaconstantinou in 2010 as part of a larger data base of material stolen from the Geneva branch of HSBC by a worker there.
Papaconstantinou claimed that the list vanished, but his successor, Evangelos Venizelos, now head of the PASOK Socialist party, had a copy on a memory stick and produced it. But Venizelos, who ousted Papaconstantinou from the party after the revelation of the missing names, didn’t check it for the names of possible tax cheats either and is under a challenge in his own party.
Venizelos, trying frantically to distance himself from his former colleague as the scandal grows, has blamed Papaconstantinou for mishandling the list. Papaconstantinou denied any wrongdoing and pointed the finger back at Venizelos.
“I did not remove the names of my relatives or any other name … I gave the (electronic) file I received to the then-head of SDOE (the Greek financial police),” he said in an interview published in the Athens newspaper Ethnos. “I have been framed,” he said. “It is very convenient for the entire responsibility for this issue to be held by just one person.”
A committee of senior judges will decide whether Papaconstantinou should face criminal charges on the basis of evidence from the inquiry, expected to involve several weeks of hearings, according to a parliamentary official, the Financial Times reported.
The names of one cousin of Papaconstantinou, her husband and the husband of another cousin were on a second copy of the list handed by French authorities to three Greek officials in Paris last week, after allegations that changes were made when data on the original computer disk were transferred to a USB stick. The three names were omitted from the list on the USB stick, according to a financial prosecutor’s report delivered to Parliament last week and published on several Greek websites.
After current Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras vowed to find the list, Venizelos produced his copy and handed it in October to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, after another copy was published by a journalist, Costas Vaxevanis, who was prosecuted but acquitted of charges of invasion of privacy. But while the list still hasn’t been checked for tax evaders, he is being prosecuted again.
One of the missing names was reportedly that of Eleni Papaconstantinou, a leading corporate lawyer and partner in a family firm founded by Papaconstantinou’s late uncle Michalis, who served as foreign minister in the 1990’s. His cousin Eleni was appointed this year to the advisory board of TAIPED, the Greek agency heading a long-delayed privatization of national properties and entities aimed at bringing in as much as 50 billion euros ($65.9 billion).
The scandal has prompted criticism that the Socialist government of former Prime Minister George Papandreou, now a Parliament backbencher at the same time he’s teaching at Harvard, shouldn’t have let Papaconstantinou handle the list. Papandreou said there should be a full investigation but otherwise hasn’t commented.
The Financial Times said that a senior Greek official said that, “The finance minister should not have been personally involved in the process, it was a matter to be handled by the justice minister and the financial police.”
Two former heads of SDOE though are also being probed as to why they didn’t act on the list either, although a Parliamentary committee earlier in December voted not to go ahead with an investigation of them or Papaconstantinou or Venizelos. Papaconstantinou enjoys immunity from prosecution for his official duties but there were reports the government may try to lift it.
An opinion poll by Kapa research showed growing disgust by Greeks with the runaway tax evasion scandals that continue to engulf the country while the government presses ahead with more pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions demanded by international lenders in return for more bailout loans.

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