Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras reportedly is going to ask French officials to deliver the original list of 1,991 Greeks with $1.95 billion in deposits in the Geneva branch of HSBC Bank to check for possible tax evasion after special prosecutors were said to doubt the authenticity of a version given them by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ office.
ProtoThema reported that former finance minister Evangelos Venizelos handed over a memory stick listing the names to Samaras’ office and that it was then given to Stylianos Stasinopoulos, who was appointed by Samaras to head the financial crimes squad SDOE.
The original CD, comprised of 24,000 names of the bank’s depositors that was stolen and handed over to French authorities, was given to Venizelos’ predecessor as finance minister, George Papaconstantinou, in 2010 by then French finance minister Christine Lagarde.
She is now head of the International Monetary Fund, which, along with the European Union and European Central Bank, makes up the Troika bailing out Greece with $325 billion in rescue loans.
After Stournaras said the original CD had gone missing, Venizelos turned up with a memory stick but it was reported he handed it over without making a copy and that special financial prosecutors Grigoris Peponis and Spyros Mouzakitis doubt it is either complete or authentic and want the original along with all verifying documents.
Stasinopoulos, who comes from Samaras’ home territory, was suddenly named to replace former SDOE chief Yiannis Diotis, who said he was on the trail of tax evaders when he was yanked out of the job. Tax cheats owe Greece some $70 billion but have largely escaped while Samaras is readying another $17.45 billion in austerity measures on workers, pensioners and the poor. Peponis and Mouzakitis said if they don’t get the original CD they will seek legal redress.
The revelation has put Venizelos, now the head of the floundering PASOK Socialist party, in a storm of criticism for failing to act on it at time when, as finance minister, he was doubling income and property taxes and taxing the poor. Venizelos has tried to defend himself by saying he could not use stolen data to investigate for possible crime but Lagarde said other countries have used the names to go after tax cheats.
Venizelos said the names of the depositors were given to yet another former SDOE chief, Yiannis Kapeleris to examine, but Kapeleris said he only had 10 names and never saw the original list. Facing a backlash within his own party, which, with the Democratic Left is one of the partners in the coalition government led by Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative leader, Venizelos will appear before a Parliamentary committee to answer questions on why he failed to act.
A leading PASOK member and former Interior Minister, Yiannis Ragousis, quit the party in disgust and there have been several other high-level defections since Venizelos came to power earlier this year, replacing failed former prime minister George Papandreou, who resigned a year ago in the face of constant protests, strikes and riots against the pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions he imposed on orders of the Troika.
Venizelos replaced Papaconstantinou as finance minister on June 11, 2011 and both reportedly gave depositions to Peponis and Mouzakitis where it was believed they merely repeated their public stances of why they failed to examine the names for possible tax evasion.