A Greek journalist who published the names of 2,000 suspected tax evaders has been cleared of privacy violations.
Kostas Vaxevanis, 46, was found not guilty of breaking data privacy laws for publishing the details of 2,059 Greeks reckoned to have bank accounts in Switzerland in Hot Doc, the weekly magazine he edits.
Tax evasion is widely seen as an important factor in Greek's economic malaise and the failure of local politicians to crack down on alleged evaders implicated by the list has raised suspicions the this might go against the secret vested interests of those in power. The list was supplied to Greek and other European authorities by the IMF's chief Christine Lagarde two years ago.
"It is quite clear the political system did everything not to publish this list," said Vaxevanis, who had faced the prospect of a prison term of up to two years before he was cleared at a hearing before three judges in Athens on Thursday.
"If you look at the names, or the offshore companies linked to certain individuals, you see that these are all friends of those in power. Phoney lists had also begun to circulate. It was time for the truth," Vaxevanis told The Guardian.
The list reportedly includes politicians, businessmen, shipping magnates, doctors and lawyers. None have complained of privacy violations. Greek daily Ta Nea reprinted the list on Monday three days before Vaxevanis' trial.
The Guardian adds that 500 Britons whose name also appears on the list of secret bank accounts in Switzerland are under investigation by HM Revenue and Customs. The papers adds that these investigations are more likely to leads to settlements and fines, where suspicion of tex evasion is substantiated, than criminal prosecutions. ®