SDOE chief admits slow progress in 'Lagarde list' probe

Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) chief Stelios Stasinopoulos on Tuesday admitted to Parliament's ethics and transparency committee that an investigation into a list of Greeks with accounts at a Geneva bank for possible tax violations was slow in getting off the ground as the data needed to be refined, but added that progress is being made.

SDOE is investigating some 1,700 names from a list given to Greek authorities by former French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde in 2010 of Greeks with accounts at branch of HSBC in Geneva.

Stasinopoulos said on Tuesday that SDOE has compiled files on 266 of these individuals for further investigation and that 155 of these can be expected to reach some kind of conclusion by the end of the month.

The head of SDOE told the parliamentary committee that the delay in investigating the nature of the deposits and whether they were the product of tax evasion is due to the fact that the list contained names only and that it can take several months for SDOE to cross check these names with tax authorities' files.

"It was impossible," Stasinopoulos said. "The investigations had to be preceded by processes that until now were not under SDOE's jurisdiction. We had to be able to compile all the data according to the individuals' tax identification numbers rather than just their names so that the data could be processed."

He added that SDOE's auditors had no prior experience in the probing of bank accounts and had to attend a special seminar over the summer, which meant that the investigations did not get under way until September.

Stasinopoulos also warned that among the names under investigation are "financially prominent individuals."

"We can expect them to challenge our findings so we have to make sure that they are tied up tight," Stasinopoulos added.