Athens, Greece – Kostas Vaxevanis, the Greek journalist who was charged with violating data protection law when he published the names of over 2,000 Greeks with Swiss bank accounts, has been acquitted of all criminal charges.
Vaxevanis, the editor of the magazine Hot Doc, was arrested on Sunday, a day after publishing the “Lagarde list.” The list of 2,059 individuals was handed to the Greek government by Christine Lagarde, the former French finance minister, in August 2010.
Hot Doc‘s exposé proved an embarrassing revelation for many in Greece’s political and business elite. Kostas Vaxevanis supported his decision to publish the list by arguing that the source of the data was reliable and that publishing the names of Swiss bank account holders was in the public interest. Speaking outside court in Athens on Thursday, Vaxevanis stated:
“In the last two years various names had been thrown about. People had been blackmailed. Fake lists were circulated. The political system is being destabilized. There was a fake list that had half the Greek lawmakers’ names on it. Doesn’t this need to stop?”
There is no evidence that any of the 2,059 Swiss bank account holders broke the law. However, many Greeks suspect the bank accounts were opened by individuals who sought to avoid paying taxes to the Greek state — a particularly heinous act in the economically ravaged European country where unemployment hit a staggering 25 percent last month.
The acquittal of Kostas Vaxevanis has now turned the spotlight on those in power. Questions are being raised as to why authorities in the country failed to investigate wealthy individuals for possible tax evasion despite having the list in their possession for over two years. Former Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou and his successor, Evangelos Venizelos, are under particularly strong scrutiny.