Media sources report that journalist Kostas Vaxevanis has been arrested for publishing the “Lagarde List”, a list of 2,059 names of Greek citizens with bank deposits at the HSBC Geneva branch.
This list was stolen by former bank employee Herve Falciani in 2007 and acquired by the French Finance Ministry. Similar deals have been done by Germany, notably with undeclared German deposits in Switzerland.
This “Lagarde list” was given by the then-Finance Minister of France, Christine Lagarde, to the Greek Minister of Finance George Papaconstantinou (PASOK) in October 2010. According to Papaconstantinou’s testimony in the Greek Parliament, he ordered a preliminary investigation by SDOE, the tax police, into 50 of the names on the list. Upon leaving his position some 8 months later, however, he claimed that the list was turned over to SDOE for full investigation, but that he himself no longer had the original list.
There were no further investigations by the next Minister of Finance, Evangelos Venizelos (PASOK), who declared that he could not be sure that the list was genuine. This declaration is remarkable, as it reveals that either he did not trust the previous Minister (also a PASOK member), or he did not trust SDOE, which in fact was re-constituted by PASOK when it took power in October 2009.
The net result is that for 2 years, from October 2010 to October 2012, neither SDOE nor the Ministry of Finance have proceeded with a proper investigation of the list.
It is therefore outrageous that this week a journalist published part of that list and was arrested in record time for this “crime”.
This event illustrates the structural problems affecting the Greek political system and Greek society today. Assuming the Lagarde list is genuine, the people on it represent a cross-section of the Greek elite. They include top politicians from nearly all political parties, journalists, businessmen, civil servants, and a wide range of other professions. Both PASOK and New Democracy members are widely represented on it.
However much this elite seeks to safeguard its privileges, it is clear that the patience of Greek society is over. The list was apparently leaked by a worker in the Ministry of Finance to HotDocs.gr, and from there has been widely replicated across the blogosphere. Apart from taking legal action against one journalist, there is no way to block its publication any further. All the elite can do, of course, is to block a real legal investigation, which has happened in a number of occasions in the past, and will no doubt happen again.
And with this in mind, one has to ask several questions:
a. Why should European taxpayers continue to bail out a political system which has revealed itself to be entirely corrupt and hopelessly incompetent time and time again?
b. Does the Troika “elite” not realise that to the average Greek and European citizen, it (the Troika) is fully complicit in backing the interests of this elite against the interests of the vast majority of the middle and working class? Including the unions and civil service workers?
c. Why are there no Troika demands for a full investigation and forensic accounting into corruption scandals and public procurement? So far, there have been blanket demands for “cracking down on tax evasion.” What about demands for very specific issues, such as the Lagarde list?
d. Why should Greek taxpayers and voters continue to support this system? At what point will the patience of society snap? At what point will guillotines be set up in Syntagma Square?
e. Can anyone truly say that a reaction by the extremes is not a better solution to the system we see today? Would a “benevolent” military dictatorship or a return to the monarchy not be a better option that what we see today? Would a SYRIZA government not be a better option?
f. How can anyone blame Angela Merkel for the Greek crisis when it is abundantly clear that the decisions which have led to this situation have been engineered solely in Greece, by a Greek elite comprising nearly all political parties, and which has been in place for at least the last 30-40 years?
This disgusting incident, coming as it does on the eve of the October 28th anniversary and the new austerity measures which will be voted in Parliament, is yet another indication of the fundamental corruption and instability which define the Greek system today.
In the light of this instability, the only refuge of the political class is two-fold, and we see it reflected in the remarks made by President Karolos Papoulias and other politicians at the Thessaloniki military parade:
· Blame an external enemy for Greece’s domestic problems (“Europe must recognise Greece’s sacrifices in WWII” / “We will not allow Angela Merkel to make Greece into a protectorate”)
· Use fear tactics (a Eurozone exit, bankruptcy) to scare voters into supporting one of the two “established” parties (ND), which is what happened in the last elections.
Yet with each passing day, a “peaceful” or rule-of-law-based solution to this situation appears impossible. The question therefore is: What comes next?
© Philip Ammerman, 2012