Checks on USB sticks complicate probe into Lagarde list

The investigation into the Lagarde list and its possible doctoring have seen two significant developments as prosecutors discovered that the names of depositors were transferred to one USB stick in July 2011 after ex-Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou left office, while investigative journalist Costas Vaxevanis claims the flash drive he has was created in August 2010, before Papaconstaninou claims he received the list.

Vaxevanis, who gained international prominence last year after publishing in his Hot Doc magazine the Lagarde list of Greeks with accounts at HSBC in Geneva, claims in the latest edition of the publication that the memory stick sent to him anonymously last year was created from the original CD supplied by French authorities.

The list published by Hot Doc last year contained 2,059 names rather than the 2,062 that were on the copy of the original CD obtained by Greek authorities from Paris in December. The three missing accounts on Hot Doc’s list are those owned by two of Papaconstantinou’s cousins and their husbands.

Hot Doc reports that it submitted the USB stick it has for forensic analysis, which found it was created by someone transferring the files to the device one by one on August 4 and 5 in 2010. Papaconstantinou says he received the CD with the list in October 2010.

The ex-finance minister admits copying the data on the CD onto another memory stick, which he subsequently passed to the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE). Papaconstantinou, however, does not know what happened to the original CD after he left office following a reshuffle in the summer of 2011.

Vaxevanis claimed that he has being trying this week to hand the USB he stick in his possession to Grigoris Peponis, one of the two financial prosecutors investigating the Lagarde list, but that the judicial official has not got back to him.

The journalist’s claims came in the wake of revelations that checks on a different memory stick held by Peponis and his colleague, Spyros Mouzakitis, showed the data had been transferred to the device in July 2011, after Papaconstantinou left office and before it was handed to his successor, current PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos.

The Supreme Court instructed Peponis and Mouzakitis to hand the USB stick over to the police’s electronic crime squad so experts could work out when the files containing the details of some 2,000 Greeks with accounts at HSBC in Geneva had been transferred to the device.

The prosecutors had obtained the memory stick from Venizelos in October after claims that the data had gone missing prompted an investigation. Venizelos said he received the memory stick in August 2011 but was advised by Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) chief Yiannis Diotis that it could not be used to track tax evaders as the information had been obtained illegally.

After obtaining a copy of the original CD with the depositors’ names from French authorities in December and checking it against the memory stick, Greek investigators found three accounts fewer on the USB device. They belonged to Papaconstantinou’s cousin, Eleni, her husband Symeon Sykiaridis and Andreas Rossonis, the spouse of another of the ex-minister’s cousins.

Papaconstantinou, who is set to face a parliamentary inquiry over claims he tampered with the list, admits transferring the data from the original CD to a memory stick in late 2010 but denies doctoring it.

Sources said that the information on the USB stick held by prosecutors was created on July 8, 2011, thereby raising questions about whether a second copy was made and if the data might have been doctored then.

At the time, the list was in Diotis’s possession. He is due to appear before Peponis and Mouzakitis on Monday to provide further evidence. Previously, Diotis denied making a copy of the list.

On Wednesday, Eleni Papaconstantinou and her husband, along with Rossonis, denied knowledge of the alleged tampering and told the two prosecutors that their Swiss deposits had been taxed and were derived from legal activities.