COMMENT

Institutional improvisations

By Nikos Konstandaras

The storm over the list of possible tax evaders given to Greek authorities by France in 2010, which included PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos?s deconstruction on Wednesday, in a live broadcast on a channel that was the former finance minister?s strongest ally, shows once again the catastrophic outcome when public figures improvise, when they ignore institutions.

The furor concerns claims of negligence on the part of two former PASOK finance ministers and two former heads of the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) who apparently did not investigate the 2,000-or-so names in a list given to then Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou by his French counterpart, Christine Lagarde, in 2010.

This comes after questions were raised regarding a list of 36 names of political figures being investigated by the SDOE - names that we know without knowing what they are accused of, nor how credible their accusers are. At the same time, the Financial Ministry is sifting through some 15,000 names (from a list of 54,000 who moved money abroad), as they cannot justify the size of their foreign accounts.

Even as the protagonists in the lists? controversies claim that their actions were governed by propriety and institutional procedures, it seems that they are called upon to explain themselves precisely because they ignored institutions.

If the ?Lagarde list,? as it has inevitably become known, had been passed on to the relevant authorities at the start, they would have evaluated its contents and acted according to the law; that would have been the end of the affair, most likely in favor of the public treasury. In that case, no politician or state official would be obliged to explain himself today - and all this while we know nothing about the contents of this list. In the case of the ?36,? we do not know who leaked the news of the probe of politicians so prematurely, nor their motives.

For many years, our politicians undermined institutions so that they could improvise and act as they wished. Now that times are tough they are lost, tangled in the web of their arbitrary actions. Unfortunately, some institutions are undermined by the very officials who staff them, who use them either for their personal gain or political expediency. And so a shadow of intrigue and suspicion hangs heavy over the land, tainting every effort at reform and revival.

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