Greece ‘unlikes’ freedom of the press
October 29, 2012
Journalist arrested for disclosing a list of tax evaders
By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | OCTOBER 29, 2012
Investigative journalist Kostas Vaxevanis will go on trial for publishing the so-called ‘Lagarde list’, which contains the names of 2,059 Greek people with bank accounts in Switzerland. The document, whose authenticity the government in Athens refuses to confirm, includes at least three politicians, two of them from the New Democracy, the party of Prime Minister Andonis Samaras. These people have accounts at the HSBC bank. The journalist appears Monday in court accused of publishing confidential data.
Vaxevanis was arrested Sunday morning at a friend’s house in Athens, amid a security deployment that he called a “fascist militia” in one of his Twitter messages. This Saturday, Hot Doc, who runs the fortnightly magazine where Vaxevanis made the documents public, ran the headline “All the names of the Lagarde list”.
The story is not new. In autumn 2010, six months after the first bailout of Greece, the then French Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde, gave his Greek counterpart, George Papaconstantinou, a list of 2059 names of Greek citizens with accounts in Switzerland as documentary evidence of the inveterate habit of evading taxes by professionals and entrepreneurs in Greece.
The fight against tax fraud was one of the flags of the socialist government of George Papandreou, along with a clamorous demand from international lenders, the troika form by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (the latter currently headed by Lagarde).
But the ‘Lagarde list’ apparently fell into oblivion and did not surface until earlier this month when Papaconstantinou’s successor as head of the Ministry of Economy and now leader of a party adrift, the socialist Evánguelos Venizelos, surrendered the list to authorities. Both declared that they had no information on the whereabouts of the list, but gave conflicting testimonies, said journalist Michalis Samozraki a Hot Doc hournalist during a phone conversation.
“In recent months there has been much controversy over the matter. Papaconstantinou and Venizelos were summoned by a special parliamentary committee, but told a different story from their previous one, that they had no knowledge about the existence of the ‘Lagarde list’; while later, they said they could not publish it because it was confidential … They used this as an excuse. But the Greeks began to feel cheated. That is why the fact that his colleague was arrested for publishing the list, is seen by Samozraki as an “act of total censorship. ”
Sources say the magazine received a copy of the ‘Lagarde list’ anonymously and Vaxevanis himself vindicated his obligation to disclose it, despite the threat of legal action: “I have done nothing but what a journalist is obliged to do: reveal some hidden truth “, says in a video sent to Reuters. “If anyone should be prosecuted, those are ministers who hid the list, the ‘lost’ list that they said it didn’t exist. I just did my job. I am a journalist and that’s my job. ”
In the list published by Hot Doc there are the names of at least three politicians, including two former ministers of New Democracy, one of them is dead, and a current is a director for Samaras. The former Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis denied having money in Switzerland, despite being on the list.
The potential arrest of Vaxevanis was known since Saturday after it was issued by a Greek prosecutor. Vaxevanis has under his belt investigations that include the scandal known as the Vatopedi case — one of the largest corruption scandals in the last five years and also collaborates as a journalist on the website Koutipandoras.gr (Pandora’s Box). “They entered the house with a prosecutor,” said Vaxevanis on his Twitter account. “They are detaining me. Please spread the word.” Pictures of the outside of the building where he was showed a large police operation which included a strong checkpoint.
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