Venizelos faces PASOK MPs in ‘Lagarde list’ furor

Evangelos Venizelos, the head of the Greek PASOK party, will answer questions from members of his party Thursday about his role in tracking down tax evaders with deposits in a Swiss bank.

PASOK party lawmakers will meet at 1:30 p.m., according to an e-mailed statement from the Athens-based organization Wednesday. PASOK is a member of the governing coalition led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, bringing 33 seats to his 178- seat majority in parliament.

Venizelos called the meeting after he was criticized over his handling of what?s been dubbed the ?Lagarde list,? an electronic file given to Greece in 2010 by then-French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde of about 2,000 Greeks with deposits in a Swiss bank. After days of media speculation about the list?s location, Venizelos revealed he had a copy and handed it over to the government, which passed it on to the country?s financial-crimes squad, SDOE.

Venizelos, a former finance minister, said on Oct. 2 that he had received the list in August 2011 from Finance Ministry officials and deemed it couldn?t be legally used.

The data were obtained by Herve Falciani, a former software technician in Geneva, who stole details on 24,000 accounts at HSBC Holdings Plc?s Swiss private bank. The French government has used the data to search for tax dodgers and shared the information with Italian, Spanish and British prosecutors.

George Papaconstantinou, who preceded Venizelos as finance minister, said he received the list from Lagarde, now head of the International Monetary Fund, which is providing funds to Greece.

SDOE officials have also been criticized for failing to follow up on the list. Parliament began a probe into the matter yesterday.

The ?Lagarde list? has drawn criticism from both opposition parties as well as lawmakers within the governing coalition, with most comments tying the failure to track down possible tax evasion by those on the list to the government preparing new austerity measures to secure international aid. Former Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis quit PASOK Wednesday, citing the handling of the list as his reason.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras remains in talks with the so-called troika of lenders to secure approval of a 13.5 billion-euro ($17.5 billion) budget package that is key to releasing international funds.

With Samaras?s New Democracy party holding 128 of the Greek Parliament?s 300 seats, he relies on Pasok?s 33 seats and another 17 from the Democratic Left party to secure passage of any laws in Parliament, including pledges made to international lenders. [Bloomberg]

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