PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos, testifying during a fiery hearing before a Parliamentary committee about his tenure as finance minister and his handling of a list of 2,065 Greeks with $1.95 billion in secret Swiss bank accounts that wasn’t checked for tax evaders, accused everyone else around him during that time for conspiring against him.
Venizelos blamed his predecessor as finance chief and PASOK Socialist colleague George Papaconstantinou, who is being probed after the names of three of his relatives were erased from the list, as well as other government officials, exempting himself from any wrongdoing over the so-called Lagarde List. It is named for former French finance minister Christine Lagarde, who gave it to Papaconstantinou in 2010.
He said it disappeared before Venizelos said he had a copy. Lagarde is now head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) one of Greece’s Troika of lenders putting up $325 billion in two bailouts.
Referring to the e-mails submitted to the committee last week by the former head of the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) Yiannis Diotis, Venizelos claimed their content proved that Diotis, Papaconstantinou and Constantinos Bikas, the former head of the National Intelligence Service (EYP), had all “acted secretly behind my back, had ignored me,” the newspaper Kathimerini reported.
Venizelos insisted that he received the memory stick containing the Lagarde list in August 2011, rebuffing Diotis’s claims that he gave Venizelos the list on July 8 of that year. The PASOK chief claimed that Diotis had not told him there was no other copy of the memory stick.
He repeated his conviction that the list was not legally usable but said it could have been the starting point of an investigation. Lagarde, however, said names of depositors at the Geneva branch of HSBC from other countries were being checked for tax evasion and only Greece had not done so.
Venizelos clashed during the session with leftist SYRIZA deputy Zoe Constantopoulou, whom he accused of employing methods of questioning akin to torture as she retorted he was being given favorable treatment.
The biggest dispute, however, was Venizelos’ exchange of barbs with neo-Nazi Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris which led to the session being interrupted briefly and another verbal altercation later between Venizelos and Kasidiaris as tempers flared.
The trouble started when Kasidiaris, in questions directed at Venizelos, referred to the involvement of secret service agents in the delivery of the Lagarde List to Greece, prompting the angry reaction of conservative New Democracy MP Adonis Georgiadis and a subsequent dispute between him too and Kasidiaris.
During a break from testimony, Venizelos jokingly attributed the outburst to “high testosterone levels” in comments to reporters. On hearing about the PASOK leader’s comments, Kasidiaris accused Venizelos of speaking disparagingly of members of the committee and asked Markoyiannakis, to intervene.
When Venizelos called Kasidiaris a Fascist, the Golden Dawn MP snapped, calling the PASOK leader “ridiculous and fat” and stormed out of the session, smashing a glass on his way out. Kasidiaris did not let the matter lie there, submitting a censure motion against Chairman Christos Markoyiannakis for allegedly preventing him for from examining a witness.
Kasidiaris is known for a hair-trigger temper and the Parliament has removed his immunity so he can be prosecuted for throwing a glass of water in the face of a Leftist MP during a television show before he was elected, and for slapping a Communist lawmaker, Liana Kanelli on the same show.