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George Papaconstantinou has been charged with a felony

06 June 2013 / 21:06:47  GRReporter
5159 reads

Victoria Mindova

With 234 votes "for", 21 "against" and 7 "abstained", the Greek parliament has decided to extend the charges of a criminal breach of trust against former Minister of Finance George Papaconstantinou.

All parties in parliament supported the proposal of the 54 deputies who had demanded the initiation of legal proceedings against former Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou. He served in the cabinet of George Papandreou in the period from autumn 2009 to summer 2011 and so far, he has been under investigation by a specially appointed commission.

This commission has to determine whether he is politically responsible for the concealment of the names of his relatives that are on a list of 2,062 Greek citizens with accounts of millions in a Swiss bank. The list had been submitted to the Greek authorities by the French ministry of finance. It had already benefited from the information obtained to carry out tax audits and impose hefty fines on the French taxpayers whose names were on the list.

After the investigation against Papaconstantinou, some members of the Greek parliament said they that they had new information such as to expand the charges. They support the claim that Papaconstantinou had committed a felony to the detriment of his office by giving false testimony on oath.

During the investigation last year, Papaconstantinou had said that he could not request a cross tax check against the citizens on the "Lagarde list" because it had been obtained through an informal channel and because it was the result of data theft. It was announced in May this year that there was confirmation from the French side that the list had been submitted thorough an official diplomatic channel. This seemed to have shattered the initial defence of Papacosnstantinou but nothing of the kind happened.

"I have gained nothing nor has the state suffered any losses from my actions," said the former Minister of Finance in his defence before the parliament decided his fate. "The Supreme Court of Cassation in France has revoked the fines imposed on individuals whose names are on that list," the Minister supported his arguments. Then, he passed the ball to his successor Evangelos Venizelos, who became Minister of Finance after the cabinet reshuffle in the summer of 2011. He stressed that Venizelos had been keeping the "Lagarde list" for over a year without taking any action.

George Papacosntantinou openly stated that serious political games were played behind his back and that the investigation against him was a witch-hunt. This did not convince anyone and he was sacrificed. However, the question remains of whether Papaconstantinou alone is responsible for the delay in the tax inspections in a country that is famous for the corruption scandals taking place in it.

Before the vote on the proposal by the 54 lawmakers, a heated debate took place in parliament, which was more like a neighbourhood hassle than a parliamentary session. There were some remarkable opinions among the numerous ones, including that of the leader of Independent Greeks, Panos Kamenos. He insisted on seeking responsibility not only from Papaconstantinou, but also from former Prime Ministers George Papandreou and Lucas Papademos. "We are throwing one to the wolves to save the rest," said Kamenos in the plenary hall.

Kamenos defined the financial rescue plan to Greece as a crime that conspirators and speculators outside the country had planned. According to him, in order for the truth to be revealed, all who had held key positions and protected the concealment of the list should be held accountable. "Papaconstantinou is not alone on the "Lagarde list" just like Tsochatzopoulos is not alone in the scandal with the defective submarines."

Despite their ideological differences, the parties outside the government coalition share the same opinion. SYRIZA’s Zoe Konstantinopoulou, who played a central role in the investigating commission, presented to parliament an archive of Venizelos’ testimonies.

In them, today's PASOK leader and member of the present coalition government supported Papaconstantinou’s version, namely that the list of very rich Greeks had not been used because of its suspicious origin. "They are trying to hide the guilt of others," insisted Konstantinopoulou, who is well known in the circles of lawyers and remembered as the defender of the terrorists in the case against "17 November".

Ilias Kasidiaris of Golden Dawn, who had also participated in the investigation commission, insisted that the chairmanship of the commission had exerted pressure on the investigation in order for all those involved in the case not to be held accountable. According to Kasidiaris, there was no political will to call personally former Prime Minister George Papandreou, who should have explained the case in person before the commission.

These statements gave rise to many responses in the plenary hall but that of Andreas Koutsoubas of New Democracy was the most remarkable. He nearly became crazy when he got on the rostrum to take the floor.

Tags: EconomyPoliticsPapaconstantinouLagarde ListTrialInvestigationFelony
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