A list of names of Greeks with large deposits at a Swiss bank which was submitted by French authorities to Giorgos Papaconstantinou in October 2010 was the responsibility of the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE), the former finance minister told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday, defending his handling of the so-called ?Lagarde list,? which was presented to Athens by Christine Lagarde, then finance minister of France and currently head of the International Monetary Fund.
Papaconstantinou told a parliamentary committee convened to investigate the handling of the now infamous list of Greek depositors at the Geneva branch of HSBC that the issue passed out of his hands and into those of SDOE, adding that he could not accept that the list had been tampered with in the two years that it took before it resurfaced earlier this month, when Papaconstantinou?s successor, Evangelos Venizelos, handed it over to the prime minister?s office.
Papaconstantinou told the committee that he had singled out 20 names from the list that appeared suspicious due to the size of their deposits and made a request that they be investigated to then-SDOE chief Yiannis Kapeleris. The former finance minister said that he did not submit the complete list because SDOE had allegedly previously failed to follow up on an investigation of Greek depositors in Liechtenstein, but he had asked that certain names be looked into more thoroughly.
?SDOE was obligated to investigate this kind of information and by cross-checking declared incomes with assets to locate tax evasion,? Papaconstantinou told the committee.
Papaconstantinou admitted that he had transferred the list from the CD given to him by the French authorities onto a USB stick before handing it over to SDOE for ?greater security,? adding that he left the original copy at the ministry and does not know what happened to it after he was replaced by Venizelos.
?Only an idiot would tamper with such an important electronic file,? Papaconstantinou said in response to allegations that the list may have been adulterated.
Meanwhile, testifying in front of an economic crimes prosecutor, Kapeleris and his successor Yiannis Diotis ? who served at SDOE while Venizelos was finance chief ? both denied having been asked to launch an official investigation into the list, either by Papaconstantinou or Venizelos.