Former Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou refused to appear again before a Parliamentary committee investigating his handling of a list of 2,062 Greeks with $1.95 billion in secret deposits in Swiss bank accounts, saying it has already decided to indict him and that he’s the victim of a political witch hunt to blame someone for the country’s crushing economic crisis.
Papaconstantinou instead sent a deposition to the panel he said is packed with people being ordered to go after him at the same time the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative leader, has prevented Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos, the PASOK Socialist leader, who as a former finance minister also handled the list, from being investigated.
Papaconstantinou got the so-called Lagarde List, named for former French finance minister Christine Lagarde who gave it to him in 2010. He said it disappeared but after current Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras vowed to find it, Venizelos produced a copy on a memory stick amid a flurry of back-and-forth charges over the erasure of the names of three of Papaconstantinou’s relatives and explanations why it was never checked for tax cheats and still hasn’t been.
Papaconstantinou denied doctoring the list and the panel has found that his relatives owe some 10 million euros ($13 million) in unpaid taxes and penalties although Stournaras hasn’t explained why he, too, is sitting on the names of Greeks with money in the Geneva branch of HSBC without checking it as he said he would.
In the deposition, Papaconstantinou refers to a “flagrant insult to my rights” and suggests he will take legal action in Greek and international courts. He faces up to life in prison if convicted and said the government is pursuing him as a scapegoat to protect itself. The man who appointed him, former premier and previous PASOK leader George Papandreou, has abandoned him.
He claims the charges against him were “handed down to serve political interests.” He adds that the memory stick containing the list given to his successor Venizelos, by the then head of the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE), Yiannis Diotis, is not the same as the one he had given to Diotis. He also describes as a “mockery” the fact that he was given 17 days to study a 20,000-page case file.
By a vote of 7-6, the panel voted down a proposal by the major opposition party the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA0 for Venizelos to be called before the committee again. In his last appearance he said he did nothing wrong with the list.
SYRIZA MPs had wanted to question Venizelos about a police examination of computers seized from the Finance Ministry which, they claim, reinforces Diotis’s claim that the USB found to have been tampered with was given to Venizelos in July 2011, not in August of that year, as the latter had claimed. SYRIZA’s Nikos Voutsis said that the party might seek to broaden the charges being considered so as to include Venizelos.