The Lagarde List: A Matter of Transparency or a Violation of Personal Data?

The Lagarde List: A Matter of Transparency or a Violation of Personal Data?

Prosecutor recently ordered the arrest of Greek journalist Kostas Vaxevanis for publicising a list with the names of Greek depositors in Swiss banks.

The famous “Lagarde List” includes 2,059 names of Greek depositors in the HSBC bank in Switzerland. The “Lagarde List” was published recently  in a special issue of the magazine “Hot Doc” but despite this two governments still deny its existence. The Prosecutor of Athens moved ex officio on the case and ordered the arrest of Vaxevanis, journalist and editor of the magazine, on charges of violation and processing of personal data. Vaxevanis was arrested, taken to the prosecutor and later released.  After leaving the prosecutor’s office, Vaxevanis said:

“the name of a depositor in a bank is not personal data, but the amounts, which we did not publish in ‘Hot Doc’ are. We just posted the names. Not long ago, the biggest newspaper in the country published a list of artists’ names and the amounts reported in their tax statements. No ex officio prosecution was made against it”.

The Greek Pirate Party reacted immediately in the incident and defended the journalist:

“The protection of journalists, bloggers and whistle-blowers is a basic principle in Pirate Party of Greece. We believe the disclosure of internal public or corporate information to society, when it reveals illegal or unethical activities, embezzlement, corruption, insider trading and harm society in general, is a form of moral courage and must be encouraged and protected. We need to improve legislation for the protection of journalists and bloggers, with complete anonymity and protection of their sources”.

For the last two years, during a period of crisis, the “Lagarde List” has been in the hands of two successive finance ministers who mentioned nothing about it. The behaviour of the ministers caused a massive public outcry as the list includes friends, acquaintances and relatives of several politicians. It is also striking that the list includes only three politicians but several housewives, students, retired civil servants (some of them former employees of the Ministry of Finance), doctors, lawyers, architects, owners of companies that have gone bankrupt and big showbiz names.

Vaxevanis’ case is perhaps not in the magnitude of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, but the issues raised by the publication of the list are similar. Two ministers of finance pretended for two years that they had no knowledge of the list before a journalist posted it to a magazine. Does it then become a matter of transparency or a violation of personal data? This case matters even more when Greece is in the middle of a crisis and people are outraged about the corruption and tax evasion among the political and economic elite.

The Greek Pirates also declared the “Lagarde List” to be one of many lists which have not been utilised by a state that has long collapsed and is run by a political system based on interplay and corruption. Other states, such as Germany and France, used lists they obtained properly. The Pirate Party of Greece supports the journalist and his revelations and has the intention to support freedom of speech, as well as journalism, in every possible way.

The trial of Vaxevanis took place on November 1st, and Vaxevanis was aquitted.

Featured image is CC BY-NC-ND J. Griffin Stewart.