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live Papakonstantinou did not know that his relatives were on the "Lagarde List"

17 January 2013 / 18:01:12  GRReporter
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Former Minister of Finance George Papakonstantinou did not know that his relatives Eleni Papakonstantinou, her husband Simeon Sikiardis and the husband of his other cousin Andreas Rossonis were on the "Lagarde List". Papakonstantinou stated this from the rostrum of parliament before the formation of the special commission, which is to investigate the scandal concerning the dubious bank accounts of Greeks abroad. He is believed to have deleted the names of his relatives from the list of possible tax offenders who had exported their money abroad before and during the financial crisis.
 
"I am not just innocent, I am the victim of an apparently put-up fraud," said Papakonstantinou. He insisted that such acts not only contradicted his values, but also that if he had wanted to commit a fraud he would not have done so in such a stupid way that would directly accuse him of the crime, which has been attached to him. "If I had wanted to cover up someone I would not have deleted the names of only three people with whom I have kinship ties, but I would have deleted another 10 or 20 names to make more trouble," the minister admitted.

He claims that he learned about the deletion of the names of his relatives from the "Lagarde List" on 28 October 2012, when the Ministry of Finance, headed by Yiannis Stournaras, announced the results of the check of the first and second version of the list.

In his testimony to the deputies, George Papakonstantinou said that in October 2010, the secretary of the French finance ministry had given his Greek counterpart a CD with information known as the "Lagarde List". The list had been submitted after a bilateral agreement between George Papakonstantinou and Christine Lagarde, who warned her Greek counterpart that the data had been illegally obtained.

He explained that he could not open each of the two thousand files on the list and gave it to his employees to separate the names of the people with the largest accounts. Twenty names on the list held more than half of the total amount of the funds of Greek citizens with accounts in the Swiss branch of HSBC.

On 24 January 2011, he called a meeting at the Ministry of Finance on the issue of Greek citizens' deposits abroad, at which the "Lagarde List" case was also discussed. Papakonstantinou wanted the data to be used for the detection of undeclared income, but he was not sure if the court would have accepted the accusations brought against the account holders due to the "unclear" origin of the data. At that time, the government had already put on the agenda the fight with tax crimes and the deepening crisis had caused a large wave of withdrawal of deposits from Greek banks.

In late January, the negotiations with the Swiss finance ministry to remove the ban on bank secrecy for Greek citizens in Swiss banks started. He asked his colleague to provide information on the total number and names of Greeks with accounts in Switzerland. "The negotiations were still underway and I was committed to not officially announcing the information received from France," Papakonstantinou explained as regards keeping secret the names on the "Lagarde List".

The former Minister of Finance said that he had submitted only 20 names to the tax investigators of SDOE because it was only the beginning of the process to investigate the origin of the money in the deposits on the list. He knew that the tax service was operating slowly and more than 2,000 names and the case would have completely blocked its activity. The head of the tax service at that time was Yiannis Kapeleris, who was to review the data to determine whether there were violations of the tax code.

In March 2011, Yiannis Diotis took the post of Kapeleris. In June of that year, Papakonstantinou informed Diotis about the origin of the list and left the Ministry of Finance to become the Minister of Environment. Papakonstantinou said that he could not be held responsible for what happened to the list afterwards, because he was outside the scope of developments. He emphasized that the tax service could have used the data from the list and make cross-checks of the people on it, following the pattern of checks after anonymous signals.

When asked why he had to make a copy of the list, Papakonstantinou said that in his opinion, the USB memory was a much more secure way to keep the information compared with the CD he had originally received from Paris. "I did not lose the CD but gave it to my secretary to keep. Now, I do not know its whereabouts," said Papakonstantinou, not denying that there was some carelessness in the keeping of the digital archive. However, Papakonstantinou said that any responsibility for this matter was his, not that of the staff and the employees with whom he had worked while he had been Minister of Finance.

In conclusion, the former Minister of Finance said, "I do not wish my biggest enemy to go through what my family and I myself have gone through in recent times. Some want to make a scapegoat of me and to blame on me all the sins of the new history of Greece. This is a biased attempt to hold me politically and criminally liable. Many of those present here (in the plenary hall) know that I am innocent."

Tags: EconomyPoliticsPapakonstantinouLagarde ListTrialInvestigation
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