Greek statistics head faces charges over revision

AP News
Posted: Jan 22, 2013 11:13 AM

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek prosecutors recommended Tuesday that charges be brought against the head of the statistics agency and two other employees for allegedly inflating the country's 2009 deficit in order to make the economic situation appear worse than it was.

The accusation stems from a 2010 revision which showed the deficit at 15.4 percent of the country's annual gross domestic product instead of 13.6 percent.

In 2011, a former statistics agency board member alleged the figure had been artificially inflated to justify harsh austerity measures that included tax increases and cuts to salaries and pensions. Officials denied the allegation and said the revisions had been done according to European guidelines.

Greece received its first international bailout in May 2010, and has been dependent since then on rescue loans from the International Monetary Fund and other European countries that use the euro as their currency. In return, it pledged to reform its economy and has imposed a run of austerity measures demanded by its creditors.

Prosecutors recommended that charges of making a false declaration with damage to the state be brought against the statistics chief, the agency's director of national accounts and the head of statistics research. The charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. The head of the statistics agency also faces a misdemeanor charge of repeated violation of duty.

The case is to be referred to a magistrate, who will continue investigating the charges and is expected to call those accused to testify.

An accusation in 2011 by the former statistics agency official that the 2009 figures had been doctored led Parliament in February last year to order an investigation into whether any politicians could be found responsible too. That has not led to any charges so far.

Greece's financial crisis was sparked by the revelation after elections in late 2009 that the country's deficit was about three times higher than originally thought, and that statistics had been tweaked to make it appear smaller.