“I am innocent, I deny all charges,” former Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou told the Special Court in Athens on the first day of his trial. The ex FinMin of George Papandreou government faces two felony charges in connection with the so-called Lagarde-List containing more than 2,000 names of Greek bank account holders suspected of tax evasion.
Papaconstantinou faces charges of “felony nature” for having falsified a document and “attempted breach of faith”.
According to the indictment, Papaconstantinou “intentionally distorted a document (Lagarde list) to which he had access due to his position, and had purported to that third parties gain unfair advantage thus causing damage to the State.”
The alleged losses for the state are estimated to exceed the amount of €150,000.
The ex FinMin has allegedly removed the names of three of his relatives who were on the Lagarde-List. The relatives are said to be one cousin of him and her husband as well as the husband of her sister. The two cousins are daughters of Michalis Papaconstantinou, Foreign Minister 1992-1993 under Nea Dimocratia.
According to the indictment, the former Minister distorted the list as he removed the names of his relatives in order to avoid damage to his political image as Finance Minister and to offer unfair profit to his relatives, as they could avoid tax audit.” But “tax audit occurred after the discovery of the list and found that from 1.1.1997 until 31.12.2011, his relatives had concealed taxable income.”
It is interesting what Greek media report from the trial. That “the tax audit has not concluded yet” and that “therefore it is not clear, neither if the relatives’ assets were taxed or not, nor the height of damage to the state.”
A witness [probably from tax audit authorities] told the court this morning, that the amount of taxes plus fines for the relatives is estimated to total €7.9 million. The relatives will be called to give testimony to tax authorities in 20 days. The witness said that the audit has been concluded but that the relatives have not been informed about the results yet.
However, this does not change anything in the charges against Papaconstantinou.
If found guilty, Papaconstantinou can be sentenced to life as the offenses are against the state.
The Greek Parliament had voted in favor to send Papaconstantinou to special Court 12.12. 2014.
What the Greeks call the Lagarde-List is in fact the customers’ data from HSBC Geneva branch, that had been stolen by former employee Herve Falciani in 2009. In 2010, then French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde (now IMF director) had handed over the Greek section of the stolen data to Greek authorities.
Giorgos Papaconstantinou, 53, served as Finance Minister from 2009 until the middle of 2011 in in Papandreou’s PASOK government. He was Finance Minister when Papandreou brought the IMF to Greece in May 2010.
Side note from the trial: Papaconstantinou did not want to enter the court room before photographers had left. Star TV reported, that he didn’t want to be photographed. However the presiding judge told him that “we are public persons” and that therefore being photographed was inevitable.
PS How did Julius Caesar say it? “Caesar’s wife must not only look above suspicion, she has to be above suspicion.” So being photographed in court or not, is not the issue here. The Public image is damaged anyway – to say it polite.