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Sunday 27 May 2018

Varoufakis faces criminal charges over his 'parallel payments' plans

Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis. Photo: Reuters
Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis. Photo: Reuters

Mehreen Khan in Athens

Greece's state prosecutors have set their sights on former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis who faces possible criminal charges over plans to set up a parallel payments system inside the monetary union.

The Greek parliament received two sets of legal complaints about the economist's "surreptitious" blueprint to introduce a euro-denominated alternative currency as a precursor to an exit from the eurozone.

The cases were brought to the parliament by the Supreme Court following complaints from a Greek lawyer and mayor, and separately by a group of opposition conservative parliamentarians. As an MP, Mr Varoufakis has immunity over criminal prosecution. But this could now be overturned by the Greek parliament which is set to review the allegations.

The self-styled "erratic Marxist" convened a five-man team to oversee clandestine plans to introduce "parallel liquidity" in Greece in order ease the credit strangulation imposed by the European Central Bank.

Mr Varoufakis's team included respected US economist James K Galbraith, and touted the use of smartphone apps to allow the state to continue making its domestic obligations to suppliers and collecting tax revenues. Mr Galbraith could also be facing a criminal trial over his involvement.

Controversy centres over whether or not the finance minister ordered a childhood friend and now professor at Columbia University to "hack" into government computer systems to gain access to sensitive taxpayer information and duplicate files for use under the parallel system.

In a recorded phone conversation to private investors, the finance minister is heard saying his team "decided to hack into my minister's own software programme" to make the copies of taxpayer files and pin codes.

Mr Varoufakis has since said the plans were all carried out within "the laws of the land, and at keeping the country in the eurozone".

He said he feared being hung up on charges of "treason" by political forces in the country. "It is all part of an attempt to annul the first five months of this government and put it in the dustbin of history," he said.

Irish Independent

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