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Europe

Journalist on trial for Swiss bank account revelations

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-11-01

A Greek TV journalist went on trial for breach of privacy Thursday after publishing the names of 2,000 alleged Swiss bank account holders. Costas Vaxevanis says officials failed to investigate those on the list for possible tax evasion.

A Greek investigative journalist went on trial on Thursday for publishing names from an alleged list of Swiss bank accounts that the government is accused of failing to investigate properly.

Costas Vaxevanis, a 46-year-old veteran television journalist who now publishes a magazine, insists he was doing his job while ministers responsible for vetting the list for possible tax evasion did nothing for two years.

"We will endure this. Will they?" Vaxevanis tweeted ahead of the trial.

Vaxevanis, briefly arrested on Sunday and released to prepare his defence, has been charged with breach of privacy and faces a maximum three-year prison sentence if convicted.

His lawyers have said that a number of people whose names Vaxevanis published will testify in court in his defence.

He has accused the Greek state of hypocrisy and says the justice system is bowing to a corrupt political system.

"In Ancient Greek mythology, justice is presented as blind. In modern Greece, it is merely winking and nodding ... justice remains in thrall to politics," he wrote in an article in The Guardian newspaper earlier this week.

"Dealings with banks are carried out in public, not in secrecy. The existence of a bank account is therefore not personal data," he wrote.

Vaxevanis' 'Hot Doc' magazine on Saturday published the names of more than 2,000 Greeks, allegedly from a controversial list of HSBC account holders that was originally leaked by a bank employee and passed to Greece in 2010 by France's then finance minister Christine Lagarde.

Viewing the list as stolen data that could not be used against potential tax evaders, the Greek authorities took no action for two years.

When the case resurfaced last month, it took several days for officials to even locate a copy of the so-called "Lagarde List".

The data has been the subject of intense discussion, with the government facing calls to use it to crack down on potential tax cheats as the country grapples with a massive debt crisis.

On Thursday, a special economic prosecutor asked parliament to investigate whether previous finance ministers could be faulted for failing to take action on the list, news reports said.

Vaxevanis, who denies the charge against him, says he received the information in an anonymous letter whose sender claimed to have received it from a politician.

Among those named are prominent businessmen, shipowners, lawyers, doctors, journalists and a former minister, as well as companies, housewives and students.

No deposit sums were published.

In his magazine's latest issue on Thursday, Vaxevanis accused Greek journalists of burying the story.

He wrote another article titled "You know where to stick the list" with questions and answers on why he decided to publish the names.

(AFP)

Date created : 2012-11-01

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