NEWS

Judiciary to probe Varoufakis claims about parallel payment scheme

Supreme Court prosecutor Efterpi Koutzamani on Monday convened a meeting of judicial officials, Kathimerini understands, to decide on what course of action the judiciary should take following the revelation that Former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis had planned to hack into Greece’s online tax records and create a parallel banking system.

Just a few hours after the teleconference call during which Varoufakis informed investors of his plan was made public, and as speculation swirled about the legal and privacy implications of the revelations, Koutzamani met with fellow prosecutors. According to sources, opinion was divided with some officials calling for intervention and others citing a law protecting ministers from prosecution. The likeliest course of action, Kathimerini understands, is for judicial officials to send a case file to Parliament to probe the affair and seek Varoufakis’s indictment if it deems he should face charges.

A judicial investigation might be launched immediately, however, into “non-political figures” implicated in the affair, sources indicated. It remained unclear who this might be, though Varoufakis, in the recording, refers to a friend who he recruited to the ministry due to his information technology skills and whom he authorized to hack into the General Secretariat for Public Revenues. The head of the secretariat, Katerina Savvaidou, on Monday ordered an internal investigation into the claims.

The upheaval began on Sunday, when Kathimerini leaked extracts of Varoufakis’s phone conversation with hedge fund managers on July 16. That call was coordinated by the London-based Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF), which on Monday made the conversation public.

In the call, Varoufakis can be heard saying that Mr Tsipras “before he was prime minister” gave him the “green light to come up with a Plan B,” which he started working on at the end of December, a month before leftist SYRIZA came to power, but that he admits he did not gain the final authorization to implement.

The complex scheme Varoufakis details during the telephone call foresees “hacking” into the Greek online tax system, copying the tax identification numbers of Greek taxpayers and corporations and creating a “parallel payment mechanism” which would allow payments to continue.

“That would have created a parallel banking system while the banks were shut as a result of the ECB’s aggressive action to give us some breathing space,” Varoufakis said. The system would be “euro-denominated but at the drop of a hat it could be converted into a new drachma.”

In a statement on his website later in the day Varoufakis stressed that he had been authorized by Tsipras to draft a contingency plan. But he had not prepared a plan for a Greek euro exit and had “worked exclusively within the framework of government policy and its recommendations were always aimed at serving the public interest, at respecting the laws of the land, and at keeping the country in the eurozone.”

An official close to Tsipras later in the day struck a similar tone, noting that Varoufakis’s statement “confirms that there was no plan or strategy for a return to the drachma.”

The claims prompted an outcry from the main opposition parties, which called on Tsipras to clarify whether he knew of the plan. A group of 24 of conservative New Democracy MPs asked Tsipras whether the former minister should bear political and possibly criminal blame over the revelations.

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