Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Journalist acquitted over bank list

IMF chief Christine Lagarde, who as French finance minister, gave a list of alleged tax evaders to Greek authorities

A magazine publisher has been acquitted of charges that he breached privacy laws by printing a list allegedly naming Greeks with bank accounts in Switzerland.

The list has touched off a fierce debate in the nearly bankrupt country after governments failed to use it to check for possible tax evasion by rich depositors.

The Athens misdemeanours court gave no reason for its verdict on Costas Vaxevanis. The ruling followed a closely-watched trial which supporters of Mr Vaxevanis had portrayed as a test of Greek press freedom.

"This decision... allows journalists to do their job," said Mr Vaxevanis, the publisher of Hot Doc magazine.

A prosecutor had called for Mr Vaxevanis's conviction during the trial.

The list was allegedly provided to Greek tax authorities - for use in investigating possible tax evasion - in 2010 by Christine Lagarde, then France's finance minister who now heads the International Monetary Fund. Greek officials did not act on the list, citing legal issues as it had been leaked by a bank employee.

The journalist and publisher was arrested after making public last week the names of more than 2,000 people who allegedly had HSBC accounts in Switzerland several years ago. He said he did so in the public interest.

The list was allegedly provided to Greek tax authorities - for use in investigating possible tax evasion - in 2010 by Christine Lagarde, then France's finance minister, who now heads the International Monetary Fund.

The published names were allegedly taken from data on 24,000 HSBC customers that the bank reported stolen that year, potentially exposing many international clients to prosecution by tax authorities if they failed to declare the assets in their home countries.

The bank said a former IT employee with HSBC, identified by French authorities, had obtained the information.

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