“The reason is simple”, says Greek journalist Costas Vaxevanis. “The Lagarde list is the whole economic policy system that governs the country. This corrupt elite speaks in the name of the Republic and Democracy with the same ease it cancels democracy. Media barons, ministers with offshore companies, bankers, prime ministers and friends representatives of ‘black economy’...”
The list, of 2,000 Greeks with deposits totalling more than 1.5 billion euros in Swiss banks, and what has happened to it since 2010, is high on the political agenda in Greece.
The list was originally the “Falciani list”. Hervé Falciani was working at the Geneva branch of the HSBC bank, and stole the names of 80,000 depositors. He tried to sell the list to governments. The French authorities raided his home in 2009, jailed him, and handed the list to the French Treasury. Among the 80,000 names were 2000 Greeks.
In October 2010 Christine Lagarde, then French finance minister, sent that list of 2000 on a CD to then Greek finance minister George Papakonstantinou.
Papakonstantinou copied the list onto a memory stick. As for the CD, he now says: “I gave it for safekeeping in my office, and now I do not know where it is”. When Papakostantinou transferred to the Ministry of Environment in June 2011, he delivered the memory stick to the then head of Financial Crime (SDOE), John Diotis, and claimed he had instructed previous SDOE chief John Kapeleri to check the 20 largest depositors.
Why hadn’t he given give the whole list to Kapeleri? Papakostantinou says SDOE had “difficulty investigating such cases”.
Kapeleri says that Papakonstantinou did not say anything about the list and only gave him a list of ten names, without asking him officially to check upon them. Diotis confirms Papakostantinou handed him the memory stick — but without telling him that it was the Lagarde list.
Current Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos says that when he became finance minister he got the memory stick from Diotis in August 2011, and then it remained in his drawer for a year. Why didn’t he investigate it? Venizelos blames Papakonstantinou and Diotis. Diotis blames Venizelos for not explicitly instructing him to investigate.
In October 2012, as rumours spread, for Venizelos delivered the memory stick to current prime minister Antonis Samaras.
In late October 2012 journalist Costas Vaxevanis published the list — and was instantly arrested “for flagrant violation of the law on personal data”.
Now the Lagarde list could initiate a major political crisis, and maybe the overthrow of the three-party coalition government. The coalition leaders hope to wriggle out by sacrificing one of their own, George Papakonstantinou, who when finance minister plundered public wealth and squeezed workers’ incomes.
It is reckoned that total Greek-owned deposits in Swiss banks come to as much as 600 billion euros. There is not one Lagarde list, but hundreds of them. One has come out.
Successive Greek governments have repeatedly taken rapid action against the income of workers.
Just recently the current government has voted extra taxes on the working class of 2.5 billion euros for 2013. Their class nature shows up in how long it takes them to investigate the suspected cases of tax evasion and concealment of large incomes indicated by the Lagarde list.
Greece is not in crisis for the “selected few” . Greek people are definitely “all in it together”. Wealth is transferred out of the country, legally or illegally, into tax havens, or converted into expensive real estate in European capitals. And most of it is not taxed. In Greece only 51 people declare a personal annual income above 900,000 euros.
It is the duty of the left, if it can get into government, to use this wealth for the benefit of the vast majority. To do that it will need to block the exit of wealth from the country and prevent the uncontrolled movement of capital.
The Lagarde list calls not for the “cleansing” of a system which cannot be “cleansed”, but its revolutionary overthrow! The left needs to work in that direction.
The operations of the international and European banking system, the movements of capital, the tax havens, the gambits by big business to avoid taxes, may be legal or illegal, but are all expressions of the same neoliberal vision and strategy, all options of a system currently immersed in crisis and attempting to overcoming it on the back of the working class.
Samaras and his political acolytes have tried to regain grounds by politically attacking Syriza on invented law and order issues — the question of “terrorism”, the Villa Amalia squatters (anarchists evicted by police in December 2012 from an old high school building in Athens), etc.
Syriza must avoid this trap. Syriza must seize on the list to reveal the class mechanism of the Memorandum, highlighting the role of economic power and not just political management, targeting Samaras as the leader of the memorandum neoliberal strategy.
Syriza must now raise its alternative proposal:
• To overthrow the government — elections now.
• Instead of austerity, heavy taxation of capital.
• Nationalisation of the banks under workers’ control and control the movement of capital.
• Break with the neoliberal strategy — unilateral rejection of the memorandum. Default on the debt.
We need a workers’ government, which would be based on workers’ democracy, workers’ and social control self organisation and management and workers’ militias.