ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek police arrested the editor of a weekly magazine for publishing a list of more than 2,000 names of wealthy Greeks who have placed money in Swiss bank accounts, police said on Sunday.
The so-called “Lagarde List” - given to Greece by French authorities in 2010 with names to be probed for possible tax evasion - has been a topic of heated speculation in the Greek media. It is named after International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, who was French finance minister when the list was handed over.
The “Hot Doc” magazine published the list of 2,059 names including some well-known business and political figures on Saturday. The magazine said it had been sent the list anonymously. Authorities did not confirm if the list was authentic.
A prosecutor ordered the arrest of editor Costas Vaxevanis on Saturday for violating laws on releasing private data and he was arrested Sunday, police said. He was released pending trial after appearing before a prosecutor on Sunday.
“He published a list of names without special permission and violated the law on personal data,” a police official said.
“There is no proof that the persons or companies included in that list have violated the law. There is no evidence that they violated the law on tax evasion or money laundering,” the official added.
The list has inspired heated discussion in near-bankrupt Greece, where public anger at politicians and the wealthy elite grows as austerity measures take a toll on the poorer sections of society.
In a video sent to Reuters by his magazine, Vaxevanis appeared on camera to defend his decision to publish the list.
“I did nothing other than what a journalist is obliged to do. I revealed the truth that they were hiding,” he said in the video. “If anyone is accountable before the law then it is those ministers who hid the list, lost it and said it didn’t exist. I only did my job. I am a journalist and I did my job.”
He said he had not committed any wrongdoing and accused authorities of trying to muzzle the press.
“The important thing is that a group of people - when Greece is starving - make a profit and try to create the Greece they want,” he said.
“Tomorrow in parliament they will vote to cut 100-200 euros in pay for the Greek civil servant, for the Greek worker while at the same time most of the 2,000 people on the list appear to be evading tax by secretly sending money to Switzerland.”
Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas, Writing by Deepa Babington, editing by Rosalind Russell