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Greek MP's OK Bank List Probe of Papaconstantinou

Vouli_ListaBy a wide margin, the Greek Parliament in the early morning hours of Jan. 18 voted to have  former finance Giorgos Papaconstantinou investigated over charges of removing the names of three relatives from a list of Greeks with secret Swiss bank accounts that hasn’t been checked for tax evasion.
The lawmakers overwhelmingly decided against adding his successor and now the current head of the PASOK Socialists Evangelos Venizelos, as well as two former prime ministers, George Papandreou and Lucas Papademos answered to the inquiry as sought by opposition parties to the government’s ruling coalition.
A total of 265 of 300 lawmakers voted in favor of Papaconstantinou being probed. Only 124 voted for Venizelos, which is less than the total of opposition MPs, which amounts to 136. Eighty lawmakers cast ballots for Papandreou and 63 for Papademos. The vote came after nearly all-day debate and wrangling over technical procedures on how to handle a secret ballot.
A parliamentary committee will investigate Papandreou’s handling of the so-called Lagarde List to see whether the full membership should vote to strip him of his immunity while serving in office and face charges over his handling of the list of 2,062 Greeks with $1.95 billion in the Geneva branch of HSBC. Papandreou, who appointed him and Venizelos, is a sitting MP but neither spoke in his own defense or that of Papaconstantinou, who addressed lawmakers earlier and, as did the others, denied any wrongdoing.
The government led by New Democracy Conservative leader, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, which includes PASOK and the tiny Democratic Left, was seen as keen on preventing Venizelos from facing questioning, although he also had the list in his possession as Papaconstantinou’s successor in Papandreou’s administration and set it aside instead of examining it for tax cheats while he was doubling income and property taxes and taxing the poor.
Greeks have been glued to watching the burgeoning scandal that is playing out like a Greek tragedy, with intrigue and tension at the highest levels of government and politics, and as the country’s international lenders have been pushing Samaras to go after tax cheats. Critics said the Premier was keen to protect his Venizelos from any investigation that could potentially undermine the government.
The major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) wanted Venizelos investigated too while the Independent Greeks and neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party pushed for Papandreou, who appointed Papaconstantinou and Venizelos to the finance minister’s posts, and Papademos to come under questioning as well.
The list, culled from a larger list of names stolen from the Geneva branch of HSBC by a former employee and being used to prosecute tax cheats in other countries, was given to Papaconstantinou in 2010 by former French finance minister Christine Lagarde, now head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF,) one of Greece’s international lenders.
He said it went missing but when current Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras vowed to find it, Venizelos said he had a copy on a memory stick and gave it to Samaras’ office. Venizelos said he didn’t use it to vet for possible tax cheats because it was stolen data.
When Greek authorities went to Paris in December, 2012 to get the original, it was found the version produced by Venizelos didn’t have the names of the missing Papaconstantinou relatives. Greek investigators said the names were apparently removed during the time the list was in the hands of former Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) chief Yiannis Diotis, who denied tampering with it. He was to testify before a Parliamentary committee but said he was too ill.
Speaking to the Parliament ahead of the vote, Papaconstantinou denied doctoring the list either while Papademos said he didn’t even know it existed during the six months he served as Prime Minister on a temporary basis before elections in June, 2012.
Papaconstantinou told lawmakers that, “First of all, I had no reason to do so … given that the money was shown to be legally acquired wealth and subject to taxation.” He accused the media of “cannibalizing” his relatives. He said if he had been the one who removed the names that it would have taken out other names as well to obscure his involvement.
“Erasing the names of my three relatives, and only these, is an attempt to incriminate me,” Papaconstantinou said adding that he too had found out that the list had been doctored “when everyone else did, that is on 28 December 2012.” He added that, “Such an action would be against my principles but also stupid. Would I just remove the names of my three relatives in such a way that would immediately incriminate me?”
Papaconstantinou suggested that he was being made a scapegoat because he had attempted to fight corruption when he was finance minister and because the political system was looking for a way to absolve itself of it sins. “I refused to do favors for a lot of people while I was finance minister,” he said. “There are lots of people with whom I clashed.”
Venizelos accused the opposition of trying to weaken the coalition government. “Their goal is for the government to fall — that explains the degree of intensity against me,” he said. “SYRIZA is unable to handle its new role and the scale of its presence in parliament. Shame on you – you are out-of-control slanderers,” he said.
Papademos didn’t speak but sent a memo in which he said that was not informed about the Lagarde List. He criticized the attempt by the Independent Greeks and Golden Dawn to include him in any potential investigation as “unfounded.”
Earlier this week, in a deposition, Diotis added to the confusion over the growing number of copied lists when he admitted he made a copy but denied removing the names of Papaconstantinou’s relatives.  Papaconstantinou had said he gave the list he got from Lagarde to Diotis and told him to check for tax cheats but Diotis denied he had been given such orders.
Diotis admitted that he gave the memory stick to a legal adviser of SDOE and asked her to make a new copy on another flash drive because he felt he did not know enough about computers to handle the task himself, the newspaper Kathimerini reported. Diotis said that once the information was recopied he had the data deleted from the flash drive given to him by Papaconstantinou.
“I did not want to risk damaging the contents of the USB stick by any possible mishandling,” Diotis wrote in his deposition. The lawyer he claims to have given the memory stick to will be summoned by the prosecutors.
Diotis appealed to the financial prosecutors to conduct a more thorough forensic investigation of the memory stick in question in order to determine at which exact point it may have been tampered with. Diotis’s predecessor at SDOE, Yiannis Kapeleris, also refused to appear before prosecutors a day earlier, sending a deposition too in which he claimed that he had never been given the USB stick on which the data from the original list was allegedly copied, but had been given a printout with a few names. He too avoided being questioned. There were no details on whether either man would be forced to testify.
In December, 2012, a parliamentary committee voted not to investigate either Papaconstantinou or Venizelos, but that was before the revelation of the missing names set off a furor with Greeks angry that the government is imposing more pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions on workers, pensioners and the poor while tax cheats are largely escaping sacrifice.

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