After refusing to appear in person, former Prime Minister George Papandreou has sent a written deposition to a parliamentary committee investigating the mishandling of a list of 2,062 Greeks with $1.95 billion in secret Swiss bank accounts that was never checked for tax evaders in which he said he was ”“was never informed nor asked to be informed about the contents of the list.”
Instead, Papandreou claimed he championed chasing tax evaders although no major figures were ever prosecuted. He said he had ordered all his associates and aides to scour Greece for tax cheats, according to a leaked version of the ex-premier’s testimony reported by the newspaper Kathimerini.
Papandreou said he had been informed in mid-2010 by then Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou about “the potential for acquiring data relating to the savings of Greeks abroad.” He said, “I gave an order for all necessary action to be taken to obtain it,” the deposition continued.
But the former Premier said he never followed up on it, didn’t know about so-called Lagarde List, named for former French finance minister Christine Lagarde who gave it to Papaconstantinou, who said it disappeared. Papandreou said he never asked about it, was never told about it and knew nothing about it although he was in frequent contact with his finance minister as the government was imposing austerity measures on the orders of international lenders.
Papandreou didn’t explain why his hand-chosen finance chief never told him about the list nor why it was never checked for possible tax cheats at the time the government was imposing big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions on workers, pensioners and the poor. Since he wouldn’t appear in person there was no way for him to be questioned or cross-examined.
He is still a sitting Member of Parliament but spends much of his time in the United States teaching government at Ivy League colleges, where he was as the committee was meeting and trying to determine who removed the names of three of Papaconstantinou’s relatives. The former finance minister has denied any wrongdoing.
Committee members from the major opposition party Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) have demanded the former Premier appear as he is often in Greece to take part in the business of his PASOK Socialist party, now headed by Evangelos Venizelos, who succeeded Papaconstantinou and said he never checked the list for tax cheats either.
The committee, meeting for several months now off and on, has gotten nowhere in its investigation.