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Prosecutors target Greek HSBC account holders

Sunday, December 23, 2012    

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ATHENS, Greece (AFP) — Greek prosecutors will investigate some 2,000 holders of HSBC bank accounts in Switzerland for suspected tax evasion, state broadcaster Net said yesterday.

The finance ministry said Friday that it had received the list, which was already leaked in 2010 by an HSBC employee and passed on to Greece by France's then Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, the current head of the International Monetary Fund.

Greek authorities had claimed that the list was illegally obtained and hence could not be used in the battle against tax evasion, a chronic problem in the heavily indebted and recession-hit country.

But mounting anger against a new round of austerity cuts, imposed by Greece's international creditors, put pressure on the Government to seek the list.

Officials maintained that the original so-called "Lagarde list" had gone missing, prompting Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras to ask France to re-send it.

In early November, a veteran Greek journalist who had published names from the list appeared in court for breach of privacy and was acquitted amid protests that the Government was trying to bury the issue.

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