The Austrian paper Die Presse has: Athens. Even the state attorneys for economic crimes in Athens didn’t quite believe their eyes as they, during the Christmas holidays, perused the copy of the so-called “Liste Largarde” handed over on December 20th by the French authorities – for the second time. The file with 2062 presumed Greek tax evaders looked somewhat different. A couple of names were missing – incidentally those of relatives to the former Finance Minister and chief tax sleuth, Giorgos Papakonstantinou.
Has Papakonstantinou done something criminal? Evidence point to that – but there is of course the presumption of innocence. Besides, the parliament is starting an investigation.
On the list of Greek account holders is the Swiss branch of the HSBC Holdings plc (LON:HSBA) (NYSE:HBC), the list then French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde had handed over to the Greeks in 2010, still had the names of Papakonstantinous' cousin Eleni Papakonstantinou-Sikiaridis. Furthermore that of her spouse Simeon Sikiaridis and of Andreas Rossonis' spouse Marina Papakonstantinou-Rossoni, another cousin of Papakonstantinou. On one of the listed accounts was a deposit of 1.2 million USD until 2007 – if this is legal or not, is for the time being an open question.
Papakonstantinou denies any complicity and assumes a conspiracy against his person.
But the ex-minister does have a problem as the original list of autumn 2010 was never entered into the records and was “lost” in Papakonstantinous' office, which he had to admit to a parliamentary committee months ago. His then chief of tax investigation was only handed a “sample” of names for investigation.
His successor as Finance Minister – today leader of the PASOK party, Evangelos Venizelos – received a copy and left it unused on his desk. He only handed over 2059 files this fall in an envelope to the proper authorities. That is three files less.
Venizelos, himself under suspicion by the opposition due to the handling of the list, immediately expelled Papakonstantinou from the socialist PASOK. The latest development should not be inconvenient for him, as it is now up to the parliament.
It remains a question why Papakonstantinou would risk his carrier for a simple favour to relatives, who may have deposited the money totally legally. Both cousins are successful business lawyers and their spouses business consultants. Their businesses will now surely be x-rayed.
You can’t totally dismis the possibility of a political intrigue on the slippery Athenian waxed floors. That would also put the mother of the former President Giorgos Papandreou, Margarita Papandreou, in connection with one of the accounts on the list. By all appearances, this seems to be a red herring.