• Switzerland's news in English
 

Greek case renews Swiss secrecy issues

Published: 02 Nov 2012 14:28 GMT+01:00

A Greek court on Thursday acquitted Costas Vaxevanis of breach of privacy in publishing the list in a case that exposed the government in Athens to charges of a cover-up.

Vaxevanis, a 46-year-old veteran television journalist who now publishes a magazine, has insisted he was doing his job and accused ministers responsible for vetting the list for possible tax evasion of doing nothing for two years.

 Vaxevanis, who was arrested on Sunday, was charged with breach of privacy and faced a maximum three-year prison sentence if convicted.

But with his acquittal after a 12-hour hearing new questions are now being raised about the people on the list — many of them prominent business people and politicians — and about Switzerland’s role in aiding tax evasion.

“Before everything, the Swiss must now give us some answers,” said lawyer Zoé Constantopoulou, a member of parliament for Syriza, and Vaxevanis’s defender in court.

“How many are there who have (bank) accounts in Zurich, Lausanne or Geneva?”

The court case has revived popular anger, in a country where austerity reigns, over a loss of tax revenue to public coffers estimated at 40 billion euros, as rich Greeks use banking havens to hide their wealth.

Vaxevanis published a list that had been passed on to the Greek government in 2010 by France’s then finance minister Christine Lagarde, now head of the International Monetary Fund.

It is part of bigger list of foreign account holders at HSBC’s Geneva branch which was stolen by former IT worker Hervé Falciani and forwarded to the French government in 2008.

Falciani was arrested in Spain in July and the Swiss government is seeking his extradition.  

Bern had been hoping to reach a deal with the Greek government over a taxation treaty on the “Rubik” model, Le Temps newspaper reported on Friday.

That would have allowed wealthy Greeks to maintain their secret accounts in Switzerland provided they paid a withholding tax with revenues passed on to Athens.

But the publication of the list on Saturday has stopped such a deal dead in its tracks, Le Temps indicated.

“For the Greek government to negotiate a tax agreement with Bern would become explosive, if not impossible,” a former Greek diplomat told the newspaper.

In the trial of Vaxevanis, Judge Malia Volika declared him innocent of wrongdoing and swept aside the allegations of the prosecutor.

Calling for his conviction, the prosecutor charged that the journalist had “publicly ridiculed a series of people, you have delivered these people to a society that is thirsty for blood."

But the ruling was met with applause, while Vaxevanis told Volika: "I thank you
very much Madam Judge."

As he left the courtroom, the journalist said: "I did what all journalists would have done."

During the trial, Vaxevanis stressed that he was obliged to publish the list.

"It is my job to publish this list, even if my father were on the list, I would have published it," he said.

Among those on the list are prominent businessmen, shipowners, lawyers, doctors, journalists and a former minister, as well as companies, housewives and students although no deposit sums were published.
 
Several media workers also testified on behalf of Vaxevanis, including the head of the International Federation of Journalists, Jim Bumelha, who called the trial an "absurd farce".

"Colleagues from all over the world will be keeping an eye on this,” he told reporters ahead of the verdict.
 
“If something happens to Costas, we will gather all of the forces that we have got, wherever we are, to campaign for his release,"
  

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.ch)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Norway's Jansrud takes Kitzbühel downhill crown
Jansrud during his victorious run on Saturday. Photo: SAMUEL KUBANI / AFP

Norway's Jansrud takes Kitzbühel downhill crown

Kjetil Jansrud of Norway joined the pantheon of greats to win the men's World Cup downhill at Kitzbühel on Saturday. READ  

World Economic Forum: Davos
First woman heading Lloyd's lauds diversity
Inga Beale. Photo: Lloyd's

First woman heading Lloyd's lauds diversity

As the first female head in the 325-year history of the Lloyd's of London insurance market, Inga Beale is something of a shining light at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where gender equality is a key theme this year. READ  

World Economic Forum: Davos
Hollande: 'Big business must help fight terror'
Photo: Photo: Jean-Christophe Bott/AFP

Hollande: 'Big business must help fight terror'

On his first visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos on Friday, French president François Hollande told the corporate world it must play its part in fighting terrorism. READ  

Euro hits fresh lows against Swiss franc
Photo: The Local

Euro hits fresh lows against Swiss franc

The euro dropped to its lowest level ever against the Swiss franc during currency trading on Friday, a day after the European Central Bank introduced a scheme to inject €1.1 trillion into the eurozone’s economy over 18 months. READ  

World Economic Forum: Davos
Saudi king's death 'will not change oil policy'
International Energy Agency chief economist Fatih Birol. Photo: IEA

Saudi king's death 'will not change oil policy'

The chief economist of the International Energy Agency said in Davos on Friday that there would be no "significant" changes to Saudi oil policy following the death of King Abdullah. READ  

Asylum seeker requests soar in Switzerland
Photo: Federal Office for MIgration

Asylum seeker requests soar in Switzerland

The number of requests for asylum by refugees in Switzerland rose in 2014 by 11 percent to 23,765 from the previous year, the highest rate in more than a decade, according to government figures. READ  

World Economic Forum: Davos
Andrew makes public denial of sex claims
Photo: AFP/File

Andrew makes public denial of sex claims

Britain's Prince Andrew spoke at the Davos annual meeting on Thursday to "reaffirm" official denials of claims he had sex with an underaged girl employed by an American billionaire and convicted sex offender. READ  

Jealous husband jailed for strangling wife
Photo: Sukhjeet Batth

Jealous husband jailed for strangling wife

A jealous husband who killed his wife by strangling her with a belt before dumping the body in the Rhone River was sentenced by a Geneva court on Thursday to 15 years in jail for premeditated murder. READ  

Man caught smuggling 38 tons of food and drink
Photo: Federal Customs Administration

Man caught smuggling 38 tons of food and drink

An owner of restaurants in the Rheintal region of the canton of Saint Gallen is facing criminal charges for illegally importing 38 tons of food and drink into Switzerland from Austria, customs officials said on Thursday. READ  

World Economic Forum: Davos
Killers or home helpers: experts see robots ahead
Swiss firm Nestlé is already using robots in Japan. Photo: AFP

Killers or home helpers: experts see robots ahead

From the robot that washes your clothes to the robot that marks homework: the future world of artificial intelligence wowed the Davos elite Thursday, but the rosy picture came with a warning. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
International
Pricey Switzerland tops latest global cost of living study
National
Swiss travel agents and retailers cut prices after franc surge
Technology
Solar Impulse team unveils round-the-world route for sun-powered plane
Business & Money
Swiss central bank's shock move to let franc rise sparks debate
National
Markets panic as Swiss National Bank scraps euro rate cap
National
VIDEO: Swiss soldiers publish pictures of antics on internet
National
A portrait of modern Switzerland in ten stats
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Features
Geneva-based expat pens seismic novel about Haitian homeland
Features
Tons of explosives finally removed from hundreds of Swiss sites
International
'Don't succumb to fear': Swiss President Sommaruga on terrorism
Sport
Federer claims historic 1,000th win at Brisbane tennis tournament
National
Swiss newspapers condemn deadly Charlie Hebdo terror attack
Business & Money
Hackers steal client information from Geneva cantonal bank
National
Charlie Hebdo terror attack in Paris sparks Swiss rallies
National
Pop star Madonna leaves her mark during Swiss mountain holiday
National
Disassembled Solar Impulse heads to Emirates in jumbo jet
National
US ambassador in Bern sparks flap over Swiss ski lift line 'chaos'
National
New President Sommaruga lauds 'bold' Swiss democracy
National
Hopes fade of finding missing Scottish researcher still alive
National
Scientists in Lausanne and Belgium step up search for alien life
National
Nude 'selfie' mayor heads Switzerland's top ten scandal list
Features
The Local's top ten snow sport alternatives to skiing in Switzerland
Culture
Suspected stabber Nabilla given conditional release from detention
International
Swiss hotel school grad 'hero' among Australian café siege victims
Business & Money
Switzerland cracks top ten list of best countries for business
Business & Money
Swiss National Bank imposes negative interest rates
Politics
Federal cabinet ministers rapped for accepting new limouisines
International
Swiss chocolate café at centre of hostage-taking drama Down Under
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Features
Exploring the 'most beautiful village' in French-speaking Switzerland
Business & Money
Italian thieves steal 260 tons of Swiss Lindt & Sprüngli chocolate
National
World's longest train tunnel — under the Swiss Alps — set to open in 2016
National
Porn film on video screen spices up fare at Swiss McDonald's restaurant
National
Masturbation scene in Swiss TV ad for Media Markt draws complaints
National
Cantonal lawmakers end 'happy hours' tippling in Vaud pubs and bars
Politics
Former concert pianist Sommaruga elected as next Swiss president
Culture
Jailed German art forger's paintings go on sale at Bern gallery
Business & Money
Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad's family listed as Switzerland's richest
Features
Long-time expats face dilemma: to be or not to be a Swiss citizen
National
Switzerland's voters massively reject strict immigration limits
Business & Money
Pieces of Napoleon's auctioned hair to be put in Geneva luxury watches
National
Activists petition federal government for ban on eating cats and dogs
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

2,080
jobs available