Icarus. How Greece’s once high flying finance minster crashed to earth as a convicted criminal

Post originally appeared on Zerohedge.

Back in 2010, a panel of Financial Times “experts” was asked to rank Europe’s finance ministers. Nineteen European finance ministers were judged. Greece’s then finance minister George Papaconstantinou was found to have the best political skills among the 19 EU ministers and got an over 8th rank overall. Specifically, as Keep Talking Greece reported then, the FT said Papaconstantinou had “the best political skills after displaying “panache” in his handling of the country’s economic crisis.”

Here is some more laughable insight from these so-called “experts“:

The ministers were ranked by leading economists based on political ability, economic performance and credibility in the markets.

The FT notes its surprise to see George Papaconstantinou named first on the category “political capacity.” Papaconstantinou’s overall ranking was affected by the unfavorable economic situation in Greece and the unreliability of the country in the markets.

Marco Announziata from Italian bank UniCredit described the Greek Minister of Finance as “remarkably effective in investigating dangerous European policies to ensure domestic acceptance of unprecedented austerity measures and to restore a degree of investor confidence – almost impossible task.”

Eric Nielsen from  Goldman Sachs bank noted that George Papaconstantinou  “could be the ranking winner next year, should the Greek economy start to recover in 2011.”

Well, no.

Not only will G-Pap not be a ranking winner in 2011, or any other time considering the nation defaulted, and is about to be bailed out for the third and final time, unless it is prepared to exit the Eurozone once and for all (something which should have happened back in 2010) but where things get really awkward though for the FT and its “experts” is that this “top politician” is as of this moment a convicted criminal.

As AP reported, yesterday a special court acquitted Greece’s former finance minister George Papaconstantinou of felony charges of breach of faith and doctoring a document Tuesday in a case concerning Greeks with bank accounts in Geneva. However, it still found him guilty of fabricating said documented and found him guilty of a lesser misdemeanor charge. 

Papaconstantinou, 53, received a one-year suspended prison sentence.

The convicted “top political” criminal is lucky: he had faced a possible sentence of 10 years to life imprisonment over the felony charges after being accused of removing the names of three of his relatives from a list of Greeks with accounts at HSBC bank in Geneva. But hey this is Greece, and where bribes walk justice is mute. Not that the US is any better: at least in Greece bribes are under the table – in the US these are called “lobby dollars” and are perfectly legal.

More details on the first, of many, convicted Greek politicians:

The former minister had vehemently denied the charges against him. In a majority ruling, the panel of 13 judges found him guilty of doctoring a document but reduced the count to a misdemeanor.

He faces a maximum five-year sentence but will not spend time in jail as the offense can be suspended or converted to a fine. Sentencing was expected shortly after the verdict was read out in court.

The bank account list became known as the Lagarde List, named after Christine Lagarde who was France’s finance minister at the time and who sent the information to Papaconstantinou in 2010. It was an extract of a list of HSBC Geneva account holders leaked by former bank employee Herve Falciani.

Successive Greek governments have come under criticism for not investigating all the names on the list to determine whether those on it had evaded taxes.

Papaconstantinou served as finance minister from late 2009 to mid-2011 and was the minister who negotiated Greece’s original international bailout, under which the country in May 2010 began receiving rescue loans from other eurozone nations and the International Monetary Fund in return for pushing through reforms to overhaul its economy.

The case was heard by a special court set up to handle trials against politicians. Of the 13 judges, eight called for a guilty verdict on the document- tampering charge, with three of them calling for a felony count and the other five a misdemeanor. The remaining five judges had called for an acquittal.

If only his “relatives” had stashed away a couple million in HSBC (in exchange for letting Greece bear the brunt of the European bailout of German banks using Greece as a scapegoat) the other 8 would have also called for an acquittal. Let this be a lesson to all those who listen to the Keynesyan Cargo Cult’s urges to spend instead of save.

That said, we eagerly look forward to what the future of a post-Grexit Greece holds in store for its former government, as civil proceedings become increasingly less “civil” and more tribunalized, until one day someone finally gets the Ceausescu treatment.


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