The Greek Court of Misdemeanors (“Plimeliodikeion” in Greek) on Monday unanimously proclaimed Gikas Hardouvelis innocent of all charges regarding his late submission of his Wealth-Report (“Pothen Esches” in Greek) for years 2012 and 2013.
Hardouvelis was Finance Minister in 2014 prior to the succession in power by the current SYRIZA-ANEL coalition government. He had already filed a Wealth Report for year 2014. The charges, however, referred to an earlier period, when he had served as a government adviser for a period of five months.
The prosecutor suggested there was no crime to be punished, as the former minister had already been audited both by the Parliament’s internal auditors and the tax authority’s inspectors and was found crystal clean.
The three judges agreed with the prosecutor’s proposal and unanimously voted to absolve him.
There is ambiguity in the Greek law on whether or not Prime Ministerial advisers are obliged to file a wealth report. Moreover, in Hardouvelis’s case, the charges were essentially technical in nature about filing late, not about the content of the filings.
The charges referred to the period Hardouvelis was the Chief Economic Adviser to Lucas Papademos, the technocratic prime minister who achieved the first Greek debt haircut, the so-called PSI, and the second large loan tranche to Greece for the period 2012-2014.
Papademos was the victim of a letter bomb attack three weeks ago, which he survived with serious injuries. He is presently recovering in a Greek hospital. Similarly, Hardouvelis was targeted by terrorists last March, when his name appeared as one of the senders of eight similar letter bombs, which the Greek police successfully intercepted.
Hardouvelis is well known to the Greek public today, thanks to the so called “Hardouvelis e-mail,” which summarizes a set of fiscal measures the Greek government had agreed with its European partners back in late 2014. Those fiscal measures were worth less than one billion euros, whereas the current government, over the last two and a half years, has taken measures nine times bigger.
Back in 2014, both the fiscal and the current account were in balance and the economy was recovering fast. The government had already issued three- and five-year bonds in the market at reasonable interest rates.
The banks were recapitalized with private funds and had passed the European-wide AQR and stress tests of SSM with no need for additional capital. Economic sentiment was rising. The future looked bright.
All this changed with the coming of the new SYRIZA-Independent Greeks (ANEL) government in 2015. Naturally, Hardouvelis became a sore point for the government and subsequently faced a political witch-hunt.
The new alternate minister of Justice, Panayiotis Nikoloudis, had filed a report to the Greek Parliament on January 20, 2015, that is, approximately one week before the national elections and one week prior to his ministerial appointment, while he was still the head of Greece’s major anti-corruption unit.
The report incorrectly claimed Hardouvelis’s income did not justify the funds he transferred between his domestic and international accounts in the years 2011 and 2012. It was proven so by an exhaustive audit by the Greek Parliament, which exonerated Hardouvelis.
Parliament’s internal auditors went through a net worth analysis exercise of his accounts and his tax returns for a number of year back. And they finally issued a clean report in April 2016.
Subsequently, the SYRIZA-ANEL dominated Parliament still pursued Hardouvelis for a technical reason: His late filing of his wealth report of the years 2012 and 2013. This is when the Greek justice system took over and unanimously absolved him on Monday.