On Eve of Austerity Vote, Greek Newspapers Expose Billions in Overseas Banks

Greek journalist goes to court for publishing names of country's elite hiding billions in overseas accounts. (Photo by Alexandros Beltes / EPA)

On Eve of Austerity Vote, Greek Newspapers Expose Billions in Overseas Banks

Journalist faces jail time for "doing his job"

Greek news outlets expose over 2,000 wealthy citizens who have more than 2 billion euros ($2.58bn) in Swiss bank accounts. The so-called "Laguarde list" was published on the eve of a new Parliament vote over a new 13.5 billion euro austerity package.

The list is named after Christine Lagarde, who was the French finance minister in 2010, when the electronic file was handed over to the Greek government. The Greek government has come under fire for not investigating the list--which includes former Greek culture minister, several employees of the Finance Ministry and a number of business leaders--for suspected evaders.

Greek journalist Kostas Vaxevanis, editor of the Greek magazine Hot Doc which published the list on Saturday, is being tried on Monday for--according to a police spokesman--violating data privacy law by revealing citizens' private information.

This controversy comes right as the greek government prepares to introduce new austerity measures to secure international aid. This irony was not lost on Vaxevanis who, in a video sent to Reuters, defended his actions as an excercise of press freedom:

I did nothing other than what a journalist is obliged to do. I revealed the truth that they were hiding.

If anyone is accountable before the law then it is those ministers who hid the list, lost it and said it didn't exist. I only did my job. I am a journalist and I did my job.

Tomorrow in parliament they will vote to cut 100-200 euros in pay for the Greek civil servant, for the Greek worker, while at the same time most of the 2,000 people on the list appear to be evading tax by secretly sending money to Switzerland.

Major Greek daily newspaper, Ta Nea, also reprinted the names on Monday but assured that it was not leaping to any conclusions about "its content nor the connotations it evokes in a large part of the public."

Roy Greenslade, writing for The Guardian, reports: "Greece's former finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, said earlier this month that he had received the list in August 2011 from finance ministry officials and deemed that it couldn't be legally used". His predecessor, George Papaconstantinou, "has admitted receiving the list from Lagarde."

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