The Greek government isn’t wasting time going after former finance minister George Papaconstantinou over his handling of a list of Greeks with secret Swiss bank accounts. A Parliamentary committee is expected to be appointed on Jan. 21 to look into whether he – or who else – removed the names of three of his relatives from the list of 2,062 people with $1.95 billion in the Geneva branch of HSBC.
After a contentious 16-hour debate, the Parliament voted overwhelmingly on June 18 to pursue the investigation as the wobbly coalition government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is seen as eager to put the case behind it.
While PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos, one of the government’s partners, also handled the list while serving as finance minister in a previous government, the lawmakers decided not to include him in the probe.
Political parties will name a 15-member committee that will probe the affair and decide whether there is enough evidence to suggest that criminal offenses have been committed and if the full Parliament should hear the case. Papaconstantinou steadfastly maintains his innocence.
The newspaper Kathimerini said that the committee will be led by a member of Samaras’ New Democracy party, Christos Markoyiannakis, and will consist of another four politicians from New Democracy, three from the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA,) two from PASOK, and one from each of the other parties. It is expected to begin work on Jan. 22. The committee has until February 25 to deliver its findings to Parliament, which will then have to vote again to decide whether Papaconstantinou should have his immunity from prosecution lifted.
Meanwhile, financial prosecutors Grigoris Peponis and Spyros Mouzakitis are continuing their own investigation into the case. On Jan. 21 they are expected to question Galateia Mane, an aide to the former head of the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE), Yiannis Diotis, who has also been questioned in connection to the case.
Diotis said he was too ill to testify before a parliamentary committee which did not compel him to appear. In a deposition, Diotis, who said he got the list from Papaconstantinou, said that he asked Mane to make a copy of the USB stick containing the list and then to erase one of the two. Investigators have said that the names appear to have been erased during the time the list was at SDOE.
More witnesses are set to be questioned, including a Papaconstantinou aide who advised him on computer and technology issues. Diotis said he wants a forensic examination of the memory stick and maintained he did not remove the names.