Ex-FinMin tries to explain failure to probe list of HSBC depositors

Former Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou has been defending his handling of the now infamous list of Greek depositors at the Geneva branch of HSBC by telling MPs that he asked the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) to investigate for possible tax evasion, although he admitted that the original list may have been lost.

Papaconstantinou appeared on Wednesday before a parliamentary committee investigating the handling of the list.

The former minister confirmed that he received the information from French authorities in October 2010 and that he singled out 20 names from the list based on the unusually large deposits they had and asked SDOE to investigate them.

Papaconstantinou said that one of the people on the list, a woman, had almost 500 million dollars deposited at the bank.

The ex-minister said that the then SDOE chief, Yiannis Diotis, told him some of the deposits could not be justified by the account holders? economic activities. Papaconstantinou said he asked Diotis to investigate these people.

He added that the ministry?s legal adviser said the information on the list would not be enough on its own to bring legal action against suspected tax evaders.

Papaconstantinou said that he did not ask to be informed about the progress of the probe as he had faith in SDOE?s abilities.

The ex-minister caused a stir among MPs when he admitted that he did not know what happened to the original list, saying that he had entrusted it to aides and that it had probably been lost.

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