independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Journalist to face retrial for publishing list of 2,000 Greeks with Swiss bank accounts

A GREEK journalist who published the names of more than 2,000 Greeks with Swiss bank accounts will stand trial again after a prosecutor appealed a decision to acquit him of breaking data privacy laws.

The speedy arrest, trial and acquittal of magazine editor Costas Vaxevanis for publishing the so-called "Lagarde List" had aroused international concern and captivated recession-weary Greeks angry at the privileges of the elite.

The Athens Public Prosecutor's office said the November 1 acquittal was faulty and that Vaxevanis must be tried again by a higher misdemeanour court on the same charges. If found guilty, Vaxevanis could be jailed for up to two years or face a fine.

"The prosecutor believes that the decision in favour of the journalist is legally wrong," a court official said. A similar request for appeal was filed by three people whose names are on the list, he said.

Given to Greece by French authorities in 2010, the list contains the names of 2,059 Greek account holders at HSBC in Switzerland to be probed for possible tax evasion.

It has been dubbed the "Lagarde List" after Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund who was the French finance minister when the list was handed over.

The list and the saga of how it was passed from one senior official to the next and misplaced at one point without anyone apparently taking action has riveted Greeks.

In his defence, Vaxevanis accused politicians of hiding the truth and protecting an "untouchable" elite. He said the trial was politically motivated, calling it "targeted and vengeful".

Greece has so far failed to convict any big names of tax evasion, fuelling popular disenchantment with a political class that promised to force the wealthy to share some of the pain of the debt crisis.

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