Greek prosecutors have questioned two finance ministry officials close to former Socialist finance minister George Papaconstantinou, who is caught up in a tax scandal shaking Greek politics, judicial sources said on Jan. 4.
Agence-France-Presse said the two officials worked in Papaconstantinou’s office when he was minister from 2009 to 2011. The source told the news agency said prosecutor Grigoris Peponis had summoned them “with great discretion” for questioning.
The investigation centers around who removed the name of three of Papaconstantinou’s relatives from a list of 2,062 Greeks with $1.95 billion in deposits in the Geneva, Switzerland branch of HSBC. He has denied any wrongdoing and claims he was framed, and has pointed a finger at his successor as finance minister, current PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos, who had the list in his possession as well.
Venizelos ejected Papaconstantinou immediately after the revelation but the issue has galvanized Greek society with people furious over more coming pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions as the list has not been checked for possible tax evaders although it was given to Papaconstantinou more than two years ago by then French finance minister Christine Lagarde.
She is now head of the International Monetary Fund one of Greece’s Troika of lenders along with the European Union and European Central Bank. Lagarde had come into possession of the list of 2000 names which had been removed secretly from HSBC bank by an employee and it has become known as the Lagarde List.
Papaconstantinou is facing a parliamentary probe into the matter although a parliamentary committee in December voted not to investigate him or Venizelos but now is faced with the embarrassing turnaround of having to do so after 71 lawmakers voted to recommend the government try to ascertain who removed the names and why and as financial crimes investigators have said they believe many of the depositors on the list may be tax cheats.