Former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has for the second time sent a Parliamentary committee investigating a list of Greeks with secret Swiss bank accounts a note reiterating that he knew nothing about and that he won’t return from the U.S., where he is teaching, to testify in person.
The lawmakers technically are trying to find out who removed the names of three relatives of former finance minister George Papaconstantinou, who was appointed by Papandreou and kept him informed daily about the country’s economic woes as the premier was negotiating a first bailout loan.
In 2010, former French finance minister Christine Lagarde gave Papaconstantinou a list of 2,062 Greeks with $1.95 billion in accounts in the Geneva branch of HSBC, which was part of a larger list of depositors stolen by a bank employee. Other countries are using the names to check for tax evaders but Greece still hasn’t looked into it.
Papaconstantinou said he lost it and denied any wrongdoing, as did his successor as finance chief Evangelos Venizelos, now head of the PASOK Socialists that Papandreou used to lead.
Papandreou, a sitting Member of Parliament, rebuffed his colleagues and said he wouldn’t come back from New York, where he is giving seven lectures at the Ivy League school of Columbia for $30,000 and living in a free luxury Manhattan town house after imposing big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions that pushed 20 percent of Greeks into poverty.
Committee members, in a rare show of bipartisanship, said they weren’t satisfied with his first written deposition in which Papandreou claimed ignorance of the Lagarde List although Papaconstantinou told him it was coming.
Papandreou sent a second note to the committee, saying that he had nothing to add to his deposition, which contains “fully and clearly everything that I have to present to the committee in relation to the matter under investigation.”
In his written deposition last week Papandreou claimed he had no detailed knowledge of the contents of the list but had instructed officials to crack down on tax evasion. 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.”
A request from the major opposition party Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) request for Papandreou to be called for a third time and a proposal from the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party and Independent Greeks calling for him to be brought back to testify by force or legally compelled to show up was rejected by a majority of the lawmakers, showing deference to the former prime minister who won’t have to abide by the law.