Wednesday

23rd Aug 2017

Ex-Greek data chief sentenced over deficit figures

  • Georgiou had been accused of inflating deficit statistics, leading to a harsher bailout programme for the country (Photo: EUobserver)

A Greek court has punished a former head of the country’s statistics agency in a case that revived controversy over the origins of the financial crisis and alleged meddling in the judiciary.

The appeals court gave Andreas Georgiou, who headed the Greek Hellenic Statistical Authority (Elstat), from 2010 to 2015, a two-year suspended sentence for breach of duty on Tuesday (1 August).

It found him guilty of having sent data about Greece's 2009 budget deficit to Eurostat, the EU’s statistics agency, in November 2010 without informing Elstat's board.

The figures established under Georgiou's authority in 2010 showed a higher deficit than had been previously declared by Greek authorities - 15.4 percent of GDP, instead of 13.6 percent.

Georgiou's statistics were instrumental in talks with the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at the start of Greece's first bailout. Critics said that because of them a harsher programme was imposed on the country.

A larger deficit than first reported meant that Greece had to make more cuts under the authority of the creditor institutions.

Georgiou, who became head of Elsat in August 2010, was first charged in 2013 for allegedly inflating the deficit figures - a criminal offence.

The case was dropped in 2015, then reopened after a prosecutor appealed. It was dropped a second time in May and reopened in July.

Although the former statistics chief was convicted on Tuesday, he was cleared of the criminal charges.

"It is a resounding victory for Mr. Georgiou," his lawyer told Associated Press. "It's like being charged for a deadly traffic accident and being convicted for failing to renew your driver's license."

The lawyer added that he had advised Georgiou, who lives in the US, to appeal even the lighter conviction at the Greek Supreme Court.

The European Commission said it "took note" of the ruling and said that the independence of Elsat was a "key commitment" by Greece under the bailout memorandum.

Last year, the EU executive had called on the Greek government to "actively and publicly challenge the false impression that data were manipulated" under Georgiou.

On Tuesday, it said that it had “full confidence in the reliability and accuracy of Elsat data during 2010 to 2015 and beyond."

The trial and conviction come after the Greek government was recently accused by judges of trying to put the judiciary under political pressure over Georgiou's and a few other cases.

In statement in late July the association of judges and prosecutors said that the government "is systematically attempting to subjugate and control justice."

They said that "ministers and lawmakers launch baseless accusations daily [and] seek to erode the prestige of the Greek justice system."

Greek president Prokopis Pavlopoulos also warned in an address to celebrate the 43rd anniversary of the return of democracy to Greece that: "Only in a democratic regime and the separation of powers that is inherent in this can a person live and create freely.”

Prime minister Alexis Tsipras answered that “justice is and must remain independent," but that ministers had a right to criticise judges.

Greece looking at bond market return

Greece could issue 3-year bonds as early as this week, for the first time in three years, amid mixed signs from its creditors and rating agencies.

Opinion

Managing migration: a European responsibility

"The EU now needs to bring its weight to bear, to ensure non-EU countries cooperate on taking back their nationals arriving as economic migrants", writes migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.

News in Brief

  1. Air Berlin insolvency talks begin amid 'stitch-up' accusation
  2. EU calls on Serbia and Macedonia to remain calm
  3. Schulz wants US to remove nuclear weapons from Germany
  4. Ukraine and Russia to announce another ceasefire
  5. EU to investigate Monsanto-Bayer merger
  6. US will ask Nato allies to send more troops into Afghanistan
  7. Greece to be absent at event on Communism and Nazism
  8. Czechs want observer status in Eurogroup meetings

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEuropean Governments Must Take Stronger Action Against Terrorism
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  3. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  4. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  6. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  9. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  11. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  12. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference