Greek former finance minister on trial over Lagarde List

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Former Greek finance minister George Papaconstantinou appeared in court Wednesday at the start of his criminal trial against him on charges that he removed relatives' names from a list of Greeks holding Swiss bank accounts in HSBC.

Papaconstantinou, 53, denies that he doctored the document, known in Greece as the Lagarde List, to remove three of his relatives.

The former minister is charged with criminal counts of doctoring a document and of attempted breach of faith. The charges carry potentially hefty imprisonment sentences as they include the aggravating factor under Greek law of being offenses against the state.

"I am innocent, your honor. I deny all the charges," Papaconstantinou told the presiding judge in response to the charges at the start of the procedure.

Papaconstantinou was finance minister from late 2009 to mid-2011, when he switched to the environment ministry. It was under him that Greece signed its first international bailout in May 2010.

The Lagarde List of about 2,000 people was named after Christine Lagarde, who was France's finance minister at the time and who sent it to Papaconstantinou in 2010. It is an extract of a list of account holders at a Geneva branch of HSBC leaked by former bank employee Herve Falciani.

Greek authorities have come under fire from critics for not promptly investigating the list for potential tax evaders.

Papaconstantinou's trial is expected to last until at least through next week. The case is being heard in a special court, which handles trials against politicians, before a panel of 14 judges — six from the Council of State and eight from the Supreme Court.