Ex-SDOE chief admits copying Lagarde list, denies tampering

Ex-Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) chief Yiannis Diotis told prosecutors on Tuesday that he did make a copy of the so-called Lagarde list onto a memory stick and deleted the contents of the flash drive that was handed to him by former Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou, though he denied removing the names of three relatives of Papaconstantinou from the record.

Diotis did not appear before the financial prosecutors investigating the handling since 2010 of a list of Greek depositors with accounts at HSBC in Geneva — which was handed to Papaconstantinou by his French counterpart Christine Lagarde in order to be probed for possible tax cheats — but gave his testimony in a written deposition.

Prosecutors are trying to determine who removed the names of three relatives of Papaconstantinou from a list of some 2,000 Greek depositors at the Swiss bank.

Papaconstantinou claims that he never perused the so-called Lagarde list in detail and had handed it over to SDOE, headed by Diotis at the time, to be investigated for possible tax cheats after copying the original CD he had received from French authorities onto a memory stick.

In his written deposition Diotis admitted that he gave the memory stick to a legal adviser of SDOE and asked her to make a new copy on another flash drive because he felt he did not know enough about computers to handle the task himself. He added that once the information was recopied he had the data deleted from the flash drive given to him by Papaconstantinou. Diotis denied that he tampered with the data at any point in the process.

“I did not want to risk damaging the contents of the USB stick by any possible mishandling,” Diotis wrote in his deposition. The lawyer he claims to have given the memory stick to will be summoned by the prosecutors within the coming day to corroborate his testimony.

Meanwhile, Diotis said that the reason why he deleted the data on the original memory stick was that he “did not want a copy that could come into anyone’s hands lying around before the minister informed me on how to proceed.”

Diotis said that when he received the memory stick from Papaconstantiniou in mid-July 2011, he had not been informed of the existence of the original CD on which the data was contained nor of the fact that it had been submitted by French Finance Ministry officials.

“Had that been the case, then it is obvious that I would have handled it as a regular document and would have had no reason to see it as illegal evidentiary material,” Diotis wrote in his deposition, stressing that he had at no point been told that the material in his possession was the so-called Lagarde list.

Venizelos claims that he was handed the list by Diotis in the late summer of 2011, but says that he felt he could not use the information contained on it because it was acquired illegally through a leak at HSBC.

Diotis appealed to the financial prosecutors to conduct a more thorough forensic investigation of the memory stick in question in order to determine at which exact point it may have been tampered with.