France advised Lagarde list could be used for tax probe, committee hears

Claims that the Lagarde list of depositors provided by French authorities to Greece in September 2010 could not be used to track tax evaders are unfounded, it emerged on Wednesday, as the parliamentary investigation into the affair heard that Athens was given the information as part of an existing taxation pact with France.

The French Finance Ministry sent the Greek government a copy of a letter that accompanied the CD with the names of more than 2,000 Greeks with accounts at the Geneva branch of HSBC. The note said that the disc was being forwarded in line with a 1963 agreement that allowed the information to be used for tax purposes.

Sources close to PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos said that he had not been informed about this when he succeeded Giorgos Papaconstantinou, suspected of doctoring the list, at the Finance Ministry in the summer of 2011. Venizelos has told the parliamentary probe that he did not launch an investigation into the list as he had been advised by ex-Financial Crimes Squad chief Yiannis Diotis that it would be illegal to use the data.

Diotis claims that Papaconstantinou had not informed him about how the information was obtained and had assumed that the National Intelligence Service had been involved.