Ex-finance minister to face another Lagarde list charge

MPs voted on Thursday to widen the charges against former Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou over the handling of the Lagarde list to include breach of trust, as the ex-PASOK politician cast blame on his successor Evangelos Venizelos and former Financial Crimes Squad chief Yiannis Diotis.

Of 300 lawmakers, 234 voted in favor of the new charge being leveled against Papaconstantinou, who is accused of failing to record the receipt of a CD from the French Finance Ministry containing the names of more than 2,000 Greeks with accounts at the Geneva branch of HSBC and of doctoring the list to remove the names of his relatives, which the ex-finance minister denies.

The broadening of the charges means that the parliamentary committee already probing Papaconstantinou is to extend its deadline until June 25. He insisted on Thursday that he was right not to officially record receipt of the CD as French authorities had not recorded sending it either because it contained information that had been obtained illegally. Papaconstantinou claimed in a speech in Parliament that some tax evasion court cases in France based on the HSBC data have collapsed because the information was stolen by a former bank employee.

The ex-minister said this is why he gave the information to Diotis to use as a basis for broader tax probes rather than a specific investigation. “The data was stored away in Diotis’s drawer for 16 months,” said Papaconstantinou by way of explaining why no tax evaders were traced.

The ex-minister also called on MPs to explain why, if he allegedly blocked the investigation, there were no results once he was replaced by Venizelos, who he accused of scapegoating. “Some people believe that the only way to save themselves is destroying their predecessors,” said Papaconstantinou.