• Switzerland's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Greek case renews Swiss secrecy issues

AFP/The Local · 2 Nov 2012, 14:28

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
Swiss prisons fear drone deliveries to inmates
File photo: Nicolas Tucat/AFP

Could drones be used to deliver weapons to prisoners?

United Nations weighs in on burqini ban debate
A London demonstration against the burqini ban. Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP

Burqini bans "fuel religious intolerance" says a UN spokesman.

Record numbers sign up for Swiss Erasmus replacement
File photo: Francisco Osorio

More people than ever are taking part in Switzerland’s study abroad scheme, despite the fact the country is no longer a full member of the EU’s Erasmus programme.

Search underway for pilot of Swiss jet missing in Alps
A Swiss F/A-18 Hornet jet. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The jet is believed to have crashed while taking part in a training exercise.

Why Switzerland is getting worse for expats
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Switzerland plunges 17 places in a global survey of expat life.

Swiss company's Zika test to be used in US
File photo: AFP

US regulators issue emergency authorization to use Roche's not-yet-approved diagnostic test for detecting the Zika virus.

Rising tensions spark rise in violence at asylum centres
Bags at a refugee centre in Switzerland. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Frustrations are spilling over in refugee centres in Switzerland causing an increasing number of confrontations between residents, according to reports.

Survey: majority of Swiss in favour of burqa ban
Photo: Antoine Taveneaux

More than 70 percent of Swiss want to see a ban on the burqa across Switzerland

Foreigners in Switzerland surpass 2 million mark
International flags outside the UN in Geneva. Photo: Martial Trezzini/AFP

For the first time, there are now more than two million foreigners living in Switzerland.

Geneva runs out of permits for non-EU workers
File photo: The Local

Canton complains to the federal government after it reduced the number of permits available to third state workers.

Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Photo: Starship
Technology
Swiss Post trials robot parcel deliveries in Bern
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Photo: AFP
Politics
Survey: Swiss optimistic about Brexit effect
Photo: Neil Heritage/Endeavour Fund
Features
Amputee's Matterhorn trek 'makes it more possible' for others
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Photo: EPFL
International
Switzerland tops global innovation table – again
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Photo: Vasily Cotovanu
National
Asylum centre plans shelved after Swiss village protests
Photo: The Local
Politics
Neuchâtel looks to boost rights for foreigners
Photo: AFP
Sport
In pictures: final day success takes Swiss to seven medals
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Photo: AFP
National
Experts debate rail security following Swiss train attack
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
File photo: AFP
Sport
Two basejumpers die in Lauterbrunnen accidents
Photo: AFP
International
Amnesty fears for child migrants at Italian border
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Photo: AXA Winterthur
National
Report: Geneva is Swiss capital of car theft
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Photo: Dani Pozo/AFP
National
Top tips for watching the meteor shower in Switzerland
File photo: Andrew Turner
Technology
Swiss start-up to offer drone service to farmers
Photo: Beat Strasser
National
British quadruple amputee summits Matterhorn
Photo: Judit Klein
National
Switzerland sees rise in child victims of forced marriage
Photo: Michael Schlick/OS Muhr
National
Swiss hiker in Austria rescued after sending SOS to America
Photo: Chris Murphy
Features
14 mistakes foreigners make on moving to Switzerland
Photo: AFP
Lifestyle
Swiss resort unveils huge ‘natural’ fresco on mountain
Photo: C Sonderegger/Swiss Tourism
National
Five great Swiss traditions all expats should try
Photo: AFP
National
Confirmed cases of Zika virus soar in Switzerland
Photo: eGuide Travel
National
Prison for woman who faked Swiss airport bomb threat
Photo: AFP
Technology
Swiss solar plane completes epic round-the-world trip
4,374
jobs available