Panels Asks Charges For Papaconstantinou

Former Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou
Former Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou

A Greek Parliamentary committee investigating the handling of a list of 2,062 Greeks with $1.95 billion in secret Swiss bank accounts that has never been checked for possible tax cheats has recommended former finance minister George Papaconstantinou be charged with forging documents and breach of duty for his role.

He had denied any wrongdoing as the lawmakers were probing how the names of three of his relatives, said to owe 10 million euros ($13 million) in taxes and penalties, were erased from the so-called Lagarde List of people with deposits in the Geneva branch of HSBC.

The maximum penalty is life in prison. Papaconstantinou said he’s the victim of a political witch hunt and noted that his successor as finance minister, current PASOK Socialist leader as well as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Evangelos Venizelos, also had a copy of the list and isn’t being investigated. Papaconstantinou said the majority of lawmakers from the two-party coalition of PASOK and New Democracy have been directed to indict him.

Critics said that Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative party leader Antonis Samaras is trying to protect Venizelos, whom he brought into the government because he needs the votes of PASOK for a parliamentary majority and to avoid new elections.

The report was signed off on after Democratic Left (DIMAR) MP Vassilis Economou backed his six peers from New Democracy and PASOK. DIMAR had been in the government coalition until pulling out late last month after refusing to go along with the closing of the national broadcaster ERT and the firing of its 2,656 workers.

It was unclear whether MPs from Independent Greeks, the Communist Party and Golden Dawn would submit reports as well. Lawmakers from the major opposition party Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) denounced the procedure. Chairman Christos Markogiannakis from New Democracy, complained that as he was reading the indictment that others on the panel said to him: “You are a perjurer and prosecutor of the junta,” showing how tense it was.

The panel said it believed that the Lagarde List was given to Papaconstantinou in 2010 by then-French finance minister Christine Lagarde. He said it vanished while in his office’s possession. After current Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras vowed to find it, Venizelos late last year said he had a copy on a memory stick. Neither he nor Papaconstantinou checked it for tax cheats, nor has Stournaras.

The missing names were revealed when French authorities forwarded the original list, setting off the scandal that has led to Papaconstantinou’s indictment.