Editor cleared in Swiss account-list case

Nov. 2, 2012 at 7:20 AM
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ATHENS, Greece, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- A Greek journalist was acquitted on charges of violating the country's data protection laws by publishing the names of Greeks with Swiss bank accounts.

Hot Doc magazine Editor Kostas Vaxevanis was acquitted Thursday of the charges arising from publishing the names of about 2,000 Greeks, including current and former government officials and business leaders, holding Swiss accounts but now authorities face questions about why no investigation was conducted for possible tax evasion, CNN reported.

Owning a Swiss account isn't illegal, but suspicions remain that some of those listed may have opened the accounts to avoid paying taxes. A parliamentary committee is looking into why no investigation was conducted either under Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos or his predecessor, George Papaconstantinou.

The names were known as the "Lagarde list," because they were turned over to Greek financial officials by former French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde in August 2010. Lagarde is now the International Monetary Fund chief.

Vaxevanis defended his decision to publish the list, saying the information came from a reliable source and was in the public interest.

"In the last two years various names had been thrown about," he said Thursday. "People had been blackmailed. Fake lists were circulated. The political system is being destabilized. There was a fake list that had half the Greek lawmakers' names on it. Doesn't this need to stop?"

The trial and verdict came four days after Vaxevanis' magazine containing the list hit newsstands, raising eyebrows about the speed with which the editor was charged and brought to trial, The New York Times reported.

Frank Vogl, a founder of Transparency International, told the Times the trial likely would stain Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' government.

"Internationally," he said, "the case will serve as a blunt reminder to Greece's international official creditors that it is hopeless to accept the pledges of the Greek authorities that they will sharply curb their budget deficit so long as they fail to act meaningfully against corruption and tax evasion."

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