A new list of Greeks with deposits in a Swiss bank given prosecutors by French officials reportedly shows as many as 600 more names than a previous one which still hasn’t been checked for possible tax cheats, and after a Parliamentary committee voted not to investigate why the original was lost, then found, and still hasn’t been acted upon.
The newspaper Proto Thema reported that the new so-called Lagarde List, named for former French finance minister Christine Lagarde, who gave it in 2010 to former Greek finance minister and a member of the then-ruling PASOK Socialists, George Papaconstantinou – who said it went missing – has some 2,500 names.
The first list had between 1,991-2,059 names, according to differing reports. Lagarde is now the head of the International Monetary Fund, (IMF) one of Greece’s international lenders, which is pressing Greece to go after tax evaders.
After current Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras discovered the list had been given to Greek authorities more than two years before and that it couldn’t be found, he vowed to find out why. That led to Papaconstantinou’s successor, Evangelos Venizelos, now head of PASOK, saying he had a copy on a memory stick.
The original was on a CD culled from much larger list of depositors around Europe at the Geneva branch of HSBC that was stolen by an employee there and wound up in the hands of the French. Venizelos said he didn’t check it because it was stolen goods but Lagarde said it had been used by authorities in other countries to hunt for tax evaders.
Despite the mishandling of the list, a committee in Parliament controlled by the ruling coalition government, that is led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives and includes PASOK and the tiny Democratic Left, said it didn’t want to probe Papaconstantinou nor Venizelos.
Now, however, the political opposition, led by the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) is reportedly set to demand a deeper inquiry and another Parliamentary committee to find out who deleted as many as 600 names from the original list and who handled it. None of this has been certified by financial prosecutors who are said to be examining both lists.
Proto Thema, however, said that besides Venizelos and Papaconstantinou, that two former heads of the financial crimes squad SDOE, Yiannis Kapeleris and Yiannis Diotis, are being looked at, although both have said they did their jobs properly and rejected any notion of wrongdoing. A number of clerks who have had handled the list are also reportedly in the line of inquiry.
While the government has set aside probes of Venizelos and Papaconstantinou, and still hasn’t checked the list for possible tax evasion while it is set to impose more pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions on workers pensioners and the poor – and at the same time Greece’s lenders said it has failed to crack down on tax cheats – a journalist who released the names from the first list is going to be prosecuted again for violation of privacy although he was acquitted at a first trial.
Stournaras wants mandatory jail time for convicted tax cheats, although not a single major alleged fraudster has been prosecuted, and Samaras said his government will start going after the tax evaders. On Christmas Eve, inspectors in Athens, Thessaloniki and Patra visited 60 establishments and found that 24 of them were responsible for 358 tax-related offenses.