Greek party seeks probe of ex-leaders over tax list

ATHENS Wed Jan 9, 2013 9:12pm IST

Eleni Papaconstantinou, cousin of former Greek Financial Minister George Papaconstantinou, (front L) is escorted by her lawyer Giorgos Stefanakis (front R), her husband Simeon Sikiaridis (back R), the husband of Eleni's sister Andreas Rossonis (back C) and an unknown man (back L) arrive to testify to Greece's financial crimes prosecutor in Athens January 9, 2013. Greece's parliament is expected to vote as early as next week on whether to probe Papaconstantinou and his successor as finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, after prosecutors found that names of Papaconstantinou's relatives had been deleted from a list of possible tax cheats he handled when in office. REUTERS/John Kolesidis

Eleni Papaconstantinou, cousin of former Greek Financial Minister George Papaconstantinou, (front L) is escorted by her lawyer Giorgos Stefanakis (front R), her husband Simeon Sikiaridis (back R), the husband of Eleni's sister Andreas Rossonis (back C) and an unknown man (back L) arrive to testify to Greece's financial crimes prosecutor in Athens January 9, 2013. Greece's parliament is expected to vote as early as next week on whether to probe Papaconstantinou and his successor as finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, after prosecutors found that names of Papaconstantinou's relatives had been deleted from a list of possible tax cheats he handled when in office.

Credit: Reuters/John Kolesidis

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's parliament will vote on whether to investigate two former prime ministers for failing to take action over a list of possible tax cheats while in office, officials said on Wednesday.

The right-wing Independent Greeks party, backed by the far-right Golden Dawn, asked parliament to probe Lucas Papademos, a technocrat, and his Socialist predecessor George Papandreou over the so-called "Lagarde list".

The list names wealthy Greeks accused of stashing money abroad. It triggered a political scandal after prosecutors disclosed last month that names of relatives of former finance minister George Papaconstantinou had been deleted from the list.

Greeks who have seen repeated cuts to salaries and pensions to avoid national bankruptcy are furious that the authorities have done little to crack down on tax evasion by a wealthy elite they blame for pushing the country into financial crisis.

"Mr. Papandreou and Mr. Papademos were aware of these actions since they were prime ministers and were responsible for directing the government," the Independent Greeks said in a statement. "But they did not do anything to pursue justice and bring this list to light."

Parliament is expected to vote as early as next week on whether to probe Papaconstantinou and his successor as finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, over their handling of the list.

The vote on Papademos, who served as prime minister from November 2011 to May last year, and Papandreou, who was PM from October 2009 to November 2011, is expected around the same time.

At least 151 deputies in the 300-seat parliament must back the motion to force a parliamentary investigation.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's government, which counts on the support of 164 lawmakers, has only endorsed an investigation into Papaconstantinou, meaning the motion to probe the other three figures is not expected to pass. Papaconstantinou has denied any wrongdoing.

Earlier this week, the small Democratic Left party in the coalition was forced to expel two lawmakers after they backed calls to probe PASOK leader Venizelos, who runs the second-biggest party in the government.

The Lagarde list, which has over 2,000 names, was first given to Athens by the French government in 2010, but little was heard of it until its existence was revealed late last year. (Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Writing by Deepa Babington; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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