ATHENS – Former Prime Minister George Papandreou should be investigated to see if there was any wrongdoing in how he handled the country’s economic crisis and imposed waves of pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and layoffs of public workers on the demands of international lenders providing the country with rescue loans, the prosecutor probing Greece’s chief of statistics said. Financial prosecutor Grigoris Peponis has recommended that Parliament should look into Papandreou’s Administration from 2009 until the former premier resigned on Nov. 11, 2011 after 18 months of social unrest sparked by the austerity measures.
Peponis has also recommended that Andreas Georgiou, a former International Monetary Fund top official who heads the country’s statistics bureau ELSTAT, should be prosecuted for allegedly misstating Greece’s economic condition in order to force the austerity measures. Georgiou has denied the charges and said he is being prosecuted “for not cooking the books,” as previous Greek governments have, including that of Papandreou’s predecessor as Prime Minister, Costas Karamanlis, whose conservative New Democracy government lied about the country’s condition, European Union officials said. Karamanlis has not faced any questions, however, nor has he made any statements on what the EU said was his mishandling of the country’s economy which helped precipitate Greece’s worst economic crisis since World War II.
Peponis has delivered the results of his initial probe into Papandreou’s reign to the Supreme Court, where prosecutor Nikos Pantelis has been appointed to examine the case file and decide whether it should be referred to Parliament in relation to possible charges against the former leader and former Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou, who initially served during the tenure of the PASOK socialists. Papaconstantinou is still serving, now as Environnment, Energy and Climate Change Minister in a coalition government headed by former European Central Bank Vice-President Lucas Papademos that also includes members of New Democracy and the far Right-Wing LAOS party.
Peponis’ investigation into the financial crisis began last September when Zoe Georganta, a former ELSTAT official, was fired and then charged with artificially inflating 2009 deficit data from around 12-13 percent to 15.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Georgiou said the government is trying to find a scapegoat and blame him for presenting accurate numbers that embarrassed Greece. His findings have been supported by the EU. Georganta claimed that European officials wanted Greece to show a greater deficit than Ireland in order to trigger a bailout and tough fiscal measures. She was later supported by Nikos Logothetis, ELSTAT’s former Vice-President, whom Georgiou accused of hacking into her e-mail account in another of Greece’s convoluted conspiratorial stories. Georgiou was chosen by Papandreou to overhaul ELSTAT in 2010, because critics said the agency was packed with incompetent political hires who faked statistics.
Peponis invited Georgiou to give evidence but did not end up taking a deposition from him. In his report, Peponis justified forwarding the case file to the Supreme Court before hearing from Georgiou by saying that he had collected several statements from witnesses who claimed that the deficit figure had been inflated. The suggestion that Papandreou might face investigation drew strong criticism from PASOK spokesman Panos Beglitis, who questioned the prosecutor’s handling of the case. Beglitis accused Peponis of “dangerous oversight” and of being part of a “well-organized intervention in political and economic life, which puts national interests in danger.”
Beglitis called on the Supreme Court to “do its duty.”