The convoluted case of a list of 2,062 Greeks with $1.95 billion in secret accounts in a Swiss bank that hasn’t been checked for possible tax evasion took another bizarre turn with a report that the names of three relatives of former finance minister George Papaconstantinou – now under investigation – apparently were removed between the time he had the information and before his successor, current PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos had a copy.
The Athens newspaper Kathimerini repored that the list, on a USB memory stick and now in the hands of economic prosecutors Grigoris Peponis and Spyros Mouzakitis, was allegedly copied sometime in the period of July 8-11, 2011 when Yiannis Diotis was head of the financial crimes squad SDOE. But it was unclear if that was yet another copy of the disputed file which has been in a number of hands.
All this information was included in the case file that has been drafted by the economic prosecutors, the newspaper ProtoThema reported. Diotis reportedly didn’t hand a copy to Venizelos until August of 2011. Papaconstantinou said he got the first copy in late 2010 from then French finance minister Christine Lagarde, now head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), one of Greece’s international lenders. Papaconstantinou said he gave it to Diotis in June 17, 2011, when he left the finance ministry, two months before Venizelos took over.
Venizelos said he was briefed by Diotis about the existence of the list in August 2011. When it was revealed late in 2012 that Greece had the list for two years, Papaconstantinou said the original copy had mysteriously vanished while in his office’s possession. When current Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras vowed to find it, Venizelos came forward and said he had a copy and handed it into the office of Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras.
Investigative journalist Costas Vaxevanis, who was acquitted of violation of privacy laws for publishing the list on his website Hot Doc, claimed that he has the USB stick to which the names were transferred from the original CD supplied by French authorities. The discovery of the missing names came when Greek officials went to Paris in December, 2012 to retrieve the original list that came off a larger CD stolen by a bank employee from the Geneva branch of HSBC.
Vaxevanis, who is going to be prosecuted again on the same charge after the government said it wasn’t satisfied with his acquittal verdict, told followers on Twitter that he had submitted the memory stick for analysis, which he said proves “when and how” the list was transferred from the CD to the device. He said he had tried to give it to Peponis but said the prosecutor had “not shown interest.”
Papaconstantinou said he never looked at the original list and Venizelos said he didn’t check it for tax evaders because it came from stolen material, although Lagarde said other countries had used the master CD to check for suspected tax cheats.
The confusing case is set to go to Parliament next week for a series of secret ballots to determine who should be investigated. The major opposition party Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party want Venizelos, former Premier and previous PASOK leader and former interim prime minister Lucas Papademos included in the probe.