Greece’s statistics chief faces charges over claims of inflated 2009 deficit figure

The head of Greece’s statistics service, Andreas Georgiou, and two board members at the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) are to face felony charges regarding the alleged manipulation of the country’s deficit figure in 2009.

Financial prosecutors Spyros Mouzakitis and Grigoris Peponis have asked as special magistrate who deals with corruption issues to investigate whether claims that Georgiou, the head of the national accounts department Constantinos Morfetas and the head of statistical research, Aspasia Xenaki, were responsible for massaging the figures so that Greece’s deficit appeared larger than it actually was, triggering Athens’s appeal for a bailout.

The three face charges of dereliction of duty and making false statements.

Ex-ELSTAT officials Zoe Georganta caused a storm in 2011 when she accused Georgiou of pumping up Greece’s deficit to over 15 percent of gross domestic product, which was more than three times higher than the government had forecast in 2009.

However, she told a panel of MPs last March that she knew of no organized plan behind this alleged manipulation of statistics, instead blaming the politicians that handled Greece’s passage to the EU-IMF bailout of “inexperience, inability or maybe some of them profited.”

The former ELSTAT official claimed that the deficit for 2009 should have been 12.5 percent of GDP and could have easily been brought to below 10 percent with immediate measures.

Georganta said that when Georgiou took over at ELSTAT in the summer of 2010, he employed the toughest methodology available to calculate the deficit, which was revised from 13.6 percent to 15.4 percent. The ex-statistician was particularly opposed to the inclusion of debts run up by Greece’s public enterprises (DEKOs) being included in the 2009 figure.

Georgiou, as well as his predecessor Ilias Plaskovitis, have denied that the deficit figure was artificially inflated. The ELSTAT chief insists that Greece’s accounting standards were simply brought in line with the demands of Eurostat, the European Commission’s statistics agency.

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