NEWS

Ex finance minister claims he was set up in Lagarde list trial

Former Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou on Thursday told the special court where he is facing charges of doctoring the Lagarde list of Greeks with deposits in Switzerland that he did not remove the names of his relatives and that he is the victim of a set-up.

During the five hours he was giving evidence, Papaconstantinou alleged that political, business and media interests were responsible for a campaign that made it appear he had removed the names of three relatives from the list of more than 2,000 Greeks with savings at the Geneva branch of HSBC.

“There has been no doctoring by me,” he said. “This is all a set-up. I do not know who is behind it but it is no coincidence that there has never been an attempt to find who is responsible. They had their guilty man from the start: me.”

Papaconstantinou said that in late 2010 he did not hand over the CD containing the stolen list to the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) when he received it via Christine Lagarde, who was the French finance minister at the time, because he feared that there would be a leak. The former PASOK official said this would have damaged his relationship with Lagarde, who he described as a crucial ally in the Eurogroup, and with Swiss authorities at a time the government was involved in discussions over an agreement that would have allowed it to go after potential Greek tax evaders with accounts there.

The ex-finance minister said that was why he gave then SDOE chief Yiannis Kapeleris only a list of 20 names from the CD. He asked Kapeleris to check if those depositors’ savings could be justified based on their tax declarations. According to Papaconstantinou, the SDOE head was asked to investigate further after discovering that their deposits were suspiciously high.

Papaconstantinou admits that he did not follow up on the checks until May 2011, when Kapeleris was replaced by former prosecutor Yiannis Diotis. The ex-finance minister said he was told by a government colleague that Diotis was trustworthy so he copied the list onto a memory stick and gave it to him. In June, Papaconstantinou was removed from his position during a cabinet reshuffle. He told the court that he sent a text message to his successor, current PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, on July 7 asking him if he had he received another copy of the list that had been left for him. Papaconstantinou says that he never received a reply but that Diotis told him Venizelos also had a memory stick with the list.

The ex-minister complained that once a parliamentary investigation into the handling of the list began, PASOK abandoned him. “My party and its presidents, who in other cases of blatant corruption defended those involved, threw me to the dogs,” he said. “When the information that someone had doctored the list became public and a parliamentary inquiry was set up, two people were in the spotlight: Mr Venizelos and me. The difference was that I was at home but Mr Venizelos was part of the three-party government.”