Greek judicial panel orders ex-finance minister to stand trial

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 11, 2014 7:00 AM

ATHENS (Reuters) - A Greek judicial panel has ruled that former finance minister George Papaconstantinou must stand trial on charges related to a scandal over a list of potential tax evaders that caused outrage among crisis-hit Greeks.

Papaconstantinou, a U.S. and British-educated economist who served under former Socialist premier George Papandreou in 2009-2011, will stand trial for attempted breach of trust and tampering with the so-called "Lagarde list" of about 2,000 Greeks with money stashed overseas, court officials said.

He was cleared of the charge of breach of duty by the five-member judicial council investigating him after his immunity from prosecution that Greek ministers enjoy was lifted by parliament in 2012, court officials said.

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

Tax evasion is a major problem in Greece and has been widely blamed for helping trigger a debt crisis that has ravaged the economy and forced it to live off aid from foreign lenders.

News of the existence of the "Lagarde list" -- a list handed to Athens by France in 2010 - shocked Greeks, who are angry that successive governments have failed to pursue those on the list while heaping austerity cuts on everyone else.

Papaconstantinou was expelled from the co-ruling PASOK party after prosecutors found names of three of his relatives had been deleted from the list. Lawmakers later voted in favor of pressing criminal charges against him.

"I'm not responsible for all of the country's ills," Papaconstantinou told parliament ahead of that vote.

The special judicial court for Papaconstantinou would be the first to be set up in 23 years. In 1991, there was a special court for former Socialist Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, who was prosecuted for his involvement in a political and economic scandal.

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou, editing by Deepa Babington and Angus MacSwan)