ATHENS – Former Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou said he was set up by political enemies and didn’t doctor a list of Greeks with secret Swiss bank accounts.
Papaconstantinou is charged with breach of duty and with removing the names of three cousins from the so-called Lagarde List of 2,062 Greeks with 1.5 billion euros in the Geneva branch of HSBC.
He has denied the charges and during five hours of testimony in his defense pointed to unknown forces he said wanted to make him the scapegoat during an ongoing economic crisis.
He told the special court he did not remove the names and is the victim of a set-up, although he didn’t identify who he thinks was behind it.
Papaconstantinou, who served then PASOK leader and Prime Minister George Papandreou, was given the list in 2010 from his French counterpart, Christine Lagarde, but said it vanished.
A copy was later produced by his successor, Evangelos Venizelos, now the head of PASOK, who denied any wrongdoing and didn’t use it to go after tax cheats.
During the five hours he was giving evidence, Papaconstantinou alleged that political, business and media interests were responsible for a campaign that made it appear he had removed the names.
“There has been no doctoring by me,” he said. “This is all a set-up. I do not know who is behind it but it is no coincidence that there has never been an attempt to find who is responsible. They had their guilty man from the start: me.”
Papaconstantinou said that in late 2010 he did not hand over the CD containing the stolen list to the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) because he feared that there would be a leak and he didn’t want to hurt his relationship with Lagarde as he was negotiating bailout terms with international lenders.
He also said he wanted to go after tax cheats and needed help in getting the Swiss to give up their vaunted tax secrecy.
He said that once a parliamentary investigation into the handling of the list began, PASOK abandoned him. “My party and its presidents, who in other cases of blatant corruption defended those involved, threw me to the dogs,” he said.
“When the information that someone had doctored the list became public and a parliamentary inquiry was set up, two people were in the spotlight: Mr. Venizelos and me. The difference was that I was at home but Mr. Venizelos was part of the three-party government,” a reference to the PASOK chief joining in a coalition led by then-Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras and the Democratic Left (DIMAR).Source: The National Herald