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Greek govt majority trimmed over accounts scandal

Source : AP
Last Updated: Tue, Jan 08, 2013 01:15 hrs

A junior partner in Greece's three-party governing coalition kicked two of its lawmakers out of its parliamentary group Monday, reducing the troubled government's majority, as a result of a scandal over a list of Greeks with Swiss bank accounts.

The Democratic Left party expelled Odysseas Voudouris and Paris Moutsinas for saying they would support the opposition Syriza party's proposal to impeach former finance minister Evangelos Venizelos, who heads the coalition's Socialist party, over alleged mishandling of the list.

French authorities in 2010 gave the Greek government the names of 2,000 Greeks who held accounts at HSBC bank in Switzerland until 2007. The list was drawn from data on 24,000 customers reportedly stolen from the bank.

Greek authorities are to examine the list for possible tax evasion. But critics accuse successive governments of failing for more than two years to use the data to investigate potential tax evasion while the country struggled to emerge from its severe financial crisis.

The government has already called for the impeachment of another former finance minister, George Papaconstantinou, for allegedly removing the names of three of his relatives from the document when he received it from the French. Court officials last month said cross-checks with a fresh version of the list showed the three names were missing from the first copy.

Venizelos expelled Papaconstantinou, who was the main architect of Greece's first austerity program, from the Socialist party when the omission came to light, and accused him of handling the list "in the worst possible way."

Both Venizelos and Papaconstantinou have angrily denied any wrongdoing.

Appearing on a late-night television news show Monday, Papaconstantinou denied he removed the names of his cousin, her husband and the husband of another cousin from the list, and argued he is being made a scapegoat.

In his first public appearance since the allegations emerged, Papaconstantinou said he received the list in October 2010 and never read the 2,000 files on it as it was not his business, but passed it on to tax authorities.

"I have not made any alterations," he said.

Parliament is to debate the call for his impeachment next week, on charges of allegedly tampering with a public document and breach of duty.

The loss of the two deputies leaves the nearly seven month-old coalition with 164 of Parliament's 300 seats — still a comfortable majority, but significantly reduced from the 179 seats it initial held after June elections. All three partners — the leading Conservatives, the Socialists and the Democratic Left — have now lost deputies to rebellions over party lines related to Greece's financial crisis.



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