Venizelos rejects blame for name list

Socialist PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday sought to absolve himself of responsibility for the failure of authorities to probe a list of some 2,000 Greek tax evasion suspects, given to authorities two years ago by former French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, as former minister Yiannis Ragousis quit the party, casting aspersions on Venizelos?s role in the affair.

Speaking to Mega TV on Wednesday night, Venizelos defended his actions during his stint as finance minister, saying his efforts had focused on ?saving the country? not on ?controlling secret information.? Venizelos, who on Tuesday gave authorities a memory stick containing the list of names after Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras admitted the data had gone astray, also hit out at the leftist opposition SYRIZA party after it declared that ?the country went to elections while Venizelos kept the data in his drawer.?

Venizelos said the affair should be discussed by Parliament?s transparency committee, which on Wednesday heard from former Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) chief Yiannis Diotis. In his testimony, Diotis claimed to have been given the list of names ?informally? by former Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou, but said the information could not be used as it was not a legitimate document.

Earlier in the day, Ragousis quit PASOK, citing inaction over the list which, he said, demonstrated the authorities? ?decisiveness to not strike at tax evasion with the same severity reserved for onslaughts on income and imposing new taxes.? Ragousis said PASOK was ?a party where the views and practices of the political establishment set up after the fall of the military dictatorship have prevailed.? His departure came as another ex-PASOK minister, Andreas Loverdos, suggested he would launch his own party soon.

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