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Greek tax cheats list is tampered

ATHENS: A list of possible Greek tax cheats with Swiss bank accounts was tampered with to remove the names of relatives of the finance minister at the time, court officials said yesterday.

George Papaconstantinou, 51, who negotiated Greece's first international bailout in 2010, denied he changed the list after receiving it from French authorities two years ago, saying he was not aware any family members were on it.

The revelation adds a new twist to a case that has infuriated austerity-struck Greeks, angry at the government's failure to crack down on the tax evasion that has contributed to the country's financial crisis.

The original list included the names of three people with family ties to Papaconstantinou who were later removed, as Greek officials confirmed when they received a fresh copy of the list, one court official said.

"It was altered by Greek hands," the official said but did not say who might have been responsible for the change.

A second court official confirmed the information. Both said the fact that the names were on the list did not mean the account holders had done anything illegal.

Papaconstantinou issued a statement strongly denying he tampered with the list.

"I have in no way tampered with the evidence," said the former socialist minister. "If there are any accounts on the list concerning members of my wider family, I did not know this until today... I will not be turned into a scapegoat in this case."

But Papaconstantinou's own Socialist PASOK party expelled him from its ranks, saying he had mishandled the case.

The list contains hundreds of names of Greek account holders at global bank HSBC in Switzerland, which authorities want to investigate over suspected tax evasion.

France originally handed over the list to Athens in 2010. But former Greek government officials did little to act on it, fuelling public anger and prompting suspicion that some names were erased before it was given to parliament earlier this year.

To put an end to the confusion, Greek prosecutors travelled to Paris last week to re-obtain the original list. They spent six days cross-checking the two documents to find out if any names were removed.



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