Tuesday

31st May 2016

Greek parliament votes to probe ex-minister

  • Ex-finance minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou is to face a parliamentary investigation on tax evasion. (Photo: International Monetary Fund)

Deputies in the Greek parliament early Friday (18 January) voted to launch a parliamentary investigation into Greece’s former minister of finance Giorgos Papaconstantinou.

Papaconstantinou is one of several names to have emerged in the mishandling of a list that discloses the identities of some 2,000 powerful tax-evading Greeks who hid away €2 billion in Swiss bank accounts.

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Others, like ex-prime ministers George Papandreou and Lucas Papademos and Papaconstantinou’s successor and current PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, escaped parliament’s scrutiny into the affair, reports Kathimerini.

Instead, some 265 MPs out of 300 voted to launch proceedings against Papaconstantinou who is accused of having deliberately removed the names of his relatives from the list - a charge he denies.

“Would I just remove the names of my three relatives in such a way that would immediately incriminate me?” he said following the vote.

Voting was initially scheduled to place at around 9 pm on Thursday evening but dragged on into the early morning hours on Friday.

Deliberations on who should be probed had started Thursday morning but disputes between lawmakers surfaced quickly.

The coalition government had proposed to vote to launch an inquiry only on Papaconstantinou. But SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras wanted Venizelos on the vote as well. Smaller party groups called for Papandreou and Papademos to be added.

In the end, the coalition won out over objections from Tsipras.

A preliminary judicial inquiry will now question Papaconstantinou’s handling of the list and determine if there is enough evidence to launch criminal proceedings.

The details of the Lagarde list emerged last October when Greek magazine Hot Doc published the names of the suspected tax evaders.

Among the political elite mentioned is Stavros Papastavros, an aide to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, and the wife of Georgios Voulgarakis, Samaras' former minister of culture and public order.

An HSBC employee in 2007 had initially compiled the data, which eventually made its way to the then French finance minister Christine Lagarde.

Lagarde then handed it over to the Greeks in 2010 when Papaconstantinou was the acting finance minister under George Papandreou.

Papaconstantinou now also stands accused for not having looked into the list at the time.

Finance ministers baulk at tax-avoidance rules

Member states will discuss again in June a proposed directive to outlaw practices used by large companies to avoid paying taxes. Meanwhile, the European Parliament makes progress on its probe of Panama Papers.

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