Greek ex-minister expelled for 'protecting relatives'

George Papaconstantinou Two of Papaconstantinou's cousins and their husbands were allegedly on the original "Lagarde list"

The Greek socialist party, Pasok, has expelled the former Finance Minister, George Papaconstantinou, over allegations he deleted the names of relatives from a list of Greeks who held Swiss bank accounts.

The list is being used to investigate possible tax evasion by Greece's elite.

It was taken from HSBC bank and handed to the then French Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde.

Pasok said Mr Papaconstantinou "handled the list in the worst possible way".

Mr Papaconstantinou, who introduced Greece's first austerity programme as the country tried to rein back its escalating debt, denies any wrongdoing.

The list was passed to the Greek Finance Ministry by Ms Lagarde in 2010, when Mr Papaconstantinou was minister. But the Pasok government took no action and later claimed to have lost it.

In recent months, growing public anger over government inaction and its prosecution of a journalist who published those named has forced the authorities to re-examine the details of about 2,000 Greek individuals and companies who had accounts in Switzerland and who may not have paid tax on all their income.

'Cousins'

The names of two of Mr Papaconstantinou's cousins and their husbands were on the original list, linked to two accounts in a Swiss HSBC branch, court officials say. However these names did not appear on the list Greek prosecutors had been working with.

A second copy was supplied by France last week and when Greek prosecutors had cross-checked the two lists the discrepancy was noticed.

Pasok said in a statement: "It is regrettable that according to the judicial investigation, there are clear indications that the list was tampered with, with respect to family members of the former finance minister George Papaconstantinou,"

Mr Papaconstantinou, however, denies any wrongdoing, claiming in a statement: "I have made absolutely no intervention into the data which I asked for and received from the French authorities," adding that he was "not going to accept the fabrication of guilt where none exists, nor become the scapegoat in this case."

Court officials have sent the new list to parliament so the legislature can look into whether there has been any wrongdoing by politicians.

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