At least two well known politicians are being investigated by the Greek Parliament for suspected tax evasion on the back of the publication of the ‘Lagarde List’.
The financial troubles faced by Greece of the last five years are well known. Just a few months ago a Grexit from the Eurozone was a strong possibility and stringent austerity measures have seen riots rocking Athens. Only last week it was revealed that despite numerous talks, spending cuts and tax hikes there is little likelihood of the nation hitting its austerity targets. Now, weekly magazine Hot Doc has published the explosive ‘Lagarde List’ which discloses the names of over 2,000 wealthy Greek citizens who have made sizable cash deposits in Swiss bank accounts.
The list, showing the names of account holders with Switzerland HSBC, was first compiled by French authorities back in 2010 and the stream of 2,059 names was presented to Greece so that they could investigate the possible tax evasion. The controversial catalogue acquired its name from former French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde.
Despite media attention and speculation nothing consequential had been done with the inventory until now.
On Saturday Hot Doc published the list of names after being sent it anonymously. The list showed that suspicious financial activities were carried out by several key political and business figures and by Sunday the magazine’s editor Costas Vaxevanis was arrested for violation of private data.
When asked about the decision to arrest Vaxevanis a police official was quoted as saying: ‘He published a list of names without special permission and violated the law on personal data. There is no proof that the persons or companies included in that list have violated the law. There is no evidence that they violated the law on tax evasion or money laundering’. The official made no mention of whether or not the list was genuine.
Vaxevanis defended his actions in a videoed statement. He stated: ‘I did nothing other than what a journalist is obliged to do. I revealed the truth that they were hiding. If anyone is accountable before the law then it is those ministers who hid the list, lost it and said it didn’t exist. I only did my job. I am a journalist and I did my job. The important thing is that a group of people – when Greece is starving – make a profit and try to create the Greece they want. Tomorrow in parliament they will vote to cut 100-200 Euros in pay for the Greek civil servant, for the Greek worker, while at the same time most of the 2,000 people on the list appear to be evading tax by secretly sending money to Switzerland.’
The list, which hints at Swiss banks holding Greek deposits in 2007 worth in the region of 2 billion Euros, has understandably caused a great deal of anger among the struggling population of a near bankrupt nation.
With the names now out in the open Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras is under pressure to investigate the issue rather than sweep it aside like his predecessors. Stournaras will be asking the French authorities for a new copy of the genuine list.
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