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Greek MPs approve prosecution of ex-minister

Parliament vote in favour of charging ex-finance minister George Papaconstantinou for tampering with "tax-cheat" list.

Last Modified: 16 Jul 2013 12:09
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Former minister George Papaconstantinou has denied any wrongdoing [Reuters]

Greek legislators have approved the filing of criminal charges against former finance minister George Papaconstantinou in a scandal over a list of potential tax evaders that sparked outrage among crisis-hit Greeks.

News of the existence of the "Lagarde list" of about 2,000 Greeks with money stashed overseas caused a political scandal last year, with many Greeks angry that successive governments failed to pursue those on the list while heaping austerity cuts on everyone else.

Papaconstantinou, a US and British-educated economist who served under former Socialist prime minister George Papandreou in 2009-2011, was expelled from the co-ruling PASOK party after prosecutors last year found that the names of three of his relatives had been deleted from the list.

Of 283 politicians in Greece's 300-seat assembly who voted in a secret ballot on Tuesday, 166 voted in favour of charging Papaconstantinou with tampering with the list, 208 in favour of charging him with misconduct, and 220 with breach of duty.

Under Greek law, ministers are protected from prosecution unless parliament lifts their immunity and decides to press charges.

A five-member judicial council is now expected to launch a new investigation into the case. If found guilty, Papaconstantinou could face a prison sentence.

Charges denied

Papaconstantinou has denied any wrongdoing, saying he is the victim of an attempt to incriminate him.

"I'm not responsible for all of the country's ills," Papaconstantinou told parliament before the vote. "Not only is it unfair to attempt to wash the sins of many governments on my back, it's something more: it is dishonorable."

Tax evasion is a major problem in Greece, and among the reasons why the country slid into a debt crisis, which has triggered six years of recession.

On Monday, a prosecutor ordered that two former heads of the financial crime unit be charged with breach of trust and removing files in connection to the list. They have denied any wrongdoing.

Named after former French finance minister Christine Lagarde, now managing director of the International Monetary Fund, the list was first handed to Athens by France in 2010, but little was heard of it until its existence was revealed in September 2012.

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