‘Lagarde’s List with Tax Evaders? Sorry, I lost the CD…’ Says ex Greek FinMin

Posted by in Politics

Members of the parliamentary committee investigating the whereabouts of  Lagarde’s list with the names of 1,991 Tax evaders could not believe their ears.  Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou, who got the list by Lagarde in October 2011, told them on Wednesday morning:

“The original file [the list] and the accompanying letter I gave for safekeeping in my office. I do not know where it is. Unfortunately I do not know where it is today.”

The ex Minister said also that there was a CD backup in a USB stick. The stick that was also ‘lost’ but it was suddenly found a couple of weeks ago on the desk of the secretary of ex FinMin and PASOK-leader Evangelos Venizelos.

Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou has been defending his handling of the now infamous list of Greek depositors at the Geneva branch of HSBC by telling MPs that he asked the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) to investigate for possible tax evasion.

Delivering of the list was arranged during a Eurogroup meeting between Papaconstantinou and then French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, later head of IMF.

“In October 2010 the list was delivered in CD form through formal diplomatic channels.  Each file included data for each of the 2,000 individuals for up 2007. I asked for an overview. In more than half the people there were not captured deposits in a certain time period. The remaining amounts were slightly over 2 billion dollars. The bulk of the money was gathered by a few names, such as the name of a woman that had a deposit of 550 million dollars at the bank.”

Papaconstantinou said further that he singled out 20 names from the list based on the unusually large deposits they had and asked SDOE to investigate them.

The ex-minister said that the then SDOE chief, Yiannis Diotis, told him some of the deposits could not be justified by the account holders’ economic activities. Papaconstantinou said he asked Diotis to investigate these people.

He added that the ministry’s legal adviser said the information on the list would not be enough on its own to bring legal action against suspected tax evaders.

Papaconstantinou said that he did not ask to be informed about the progress of the probe as he had faith in SDOE’s abilities.

Informed or not, Papaconstantinou had made his calculations about the benefit for the state from the 22 billion euro in USBC-deposits of Greeks: 100-150 million euro.

The confessions of the ex minister caused a stir among the MPs, with at least one, Zoi Constantopoulou (SYRIZA) to take the Papaconstantinou under the hot iron.

-Papakonstantinou: You accused me that I attempted to cover up people.  Nobody has made this complaint before. Today I am in a worse financial situation than when I entered politics. I do not have «offshore», I have not transferred my money, I do not have a bank account abroad.
-Constantopoulou: Say where you put the CD and leave this stuff aside.

-Papaconstantinou: There is no acceptance protocol because I judged so due to confidentiality.
-Constantopoulou: You judged it alone?
-Papaconstantinou: I was minister for 2 years and took extremely difficult decisions that I wish nobody would take.
-Constantopoulou A whole country entered the chariot of the MoU and he tell sus that he took difficult decisions.

Constantopoulou posed some 100 questions, but she didn’t receive an answer to whom in his office Papaconstantinou had given the CD for safekeeping.

sources: Proto Thema, Kathimerini, and others