Friday, 2 November 2012


Costas Vaxevanis, a Greek journalist has been acquitted of breaching privacy for publishing the names of 2,000 suspected tax evaders. He published a list of Greeks with Swiss bank accounts, including a government minister and other prominent figures in public life, in Hot Doc, the weekly magazine that he edits. In court, his lawyers argued that the charges were outrageous and said no-one on the list had actually complained of a breach of privacy. After a trial lasting one day, an Athens court found Mr Vaxevanis innocent.

Costas Vaxevanis
The court ruling comes at a time when Greece is being urged by international lenders to crack down on tax evasion as part of far-reaching reforms demanded in exchange for billions of euros of bailout money. The list of suspected evaders was reportedly leaked by an HSBC employee and passed to IMF chief Christine Lagarde when she was French finance minister in 2010. She apparently handed the list to the Greek authorities, but they sat on it, taking no action.

At least two of Greece's former finance ministers have admitted seeing copies of the list. The current Greek finance minister, Yannis Stournaras, (in office from in June), has told parliament he has not seen the list. The heavy handed prosecution has left lots of egg on the faces of current Greek Government. The Athens court took little time to acquit the journalist, and observers (according to the AFP news agency) in the courtroom broke out in applause. Greece may have given us democracy, but, perhaps there are some other things we can learn from them when it comes to exposing tax evaders.

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