Coalition closes ranks on Lagarde list probe

Officials from the three parties in the governing coalition were in talks on Thursday aimed at consolidating a common line vis-a-vis the main leftist opposition SYRIZA, which is on Monday expected to submit in Parliament a proposal that socialist PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos be investigated along with his predecessor as finance minister, Giorgos Papaconstantinou, in connection with the alleged doctoring of the so-called Lagarde list of Greek depositors.

Coalition officials privately expressed concern at SYRIZA’s insistence that

Papaconstantinou is only partially to blame and that Venizelos be put on the spot too as this could destabilize PASOK and subsequently the governing administration. The official position of all three parties in the coalition remained that Papaconstantinou is the only politician implicated in the affair following the removal from the original Lagarde list of the names of three of his relatives.

By contrast, Venizelos was transparent in his handling of the list, sources said, noting that the data came into his possession after being handled by Papaconstantinou and Ioannis Diotis, the former head of the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE). The fact that Papaconstantinou appears to have had a motive to tamper with the list – the protection of his relatives – and that he failed to react when a version of the Lagarde list was published in October by Hot Doc magazine publisher Costas Vaxevanis bolsters the coalition’s argument.

But there are fears within the ranks of the government that SYRIZA’s alternative proposal for a broader investigation into Papaconstantinou and Venizelos might lead to the affair dragging on in Parliament.

SYRIZA, for its part, repeated on Thursday that a wide-ranging investigation was the only way of stopping the “perpetuation of corruption between the economic oligarchy and politics.” The party said both former finance ministers should face criminal charges in connection with the Lagarde list.

Prosecutors are to summon Papaconstantinou’s relatives to explain the accounts they held at HSBC in Geneva in the coming days.