[MGSA-L] A Conversation With Kostas Vaxevanis
june.samaras at gmail.com
Mon Nov 19 12:26:29 PST 2012
A Conversation With Kostas Vaxevanis, the Greek Journalist Arrested
for Publishing the 'Lagarde List'
Posted: 11/19/2012 9:45 am
Kostas Vaxevanis is no stranger to headlines. As one of Greece's
best-known investigative reporters, he has covered major stories and
controversies, both within and beyond Greece. Recently, however,
Vaxevanis was the one who made international headlines, following his
arrest which resulted from his publication of the "Lagarde List" of
alleged tax evaders from Greece with Swiss bank accounts. In a recent
interview which was recorded one day after his arrest, Vaxevanis
defended his innocence, discussed the significance of the "Lagarde
List" and his rationale for publishing it, and made the serious and
shocking allegation that an attempt was made against his life.
Vaxevanis is a well-regarded investigative journalist whose career
began in 1988. He is currently the publisher of Hot Doc, a weekly
investigative newsmagazine, where the "Lagarde List" was published.
His arrest came on October 28, on charges of violating personal
privacy laws. He was acquitted in a hearing held on November 1, though
prosecutors have since appealed the verdict. He will now face a
According to Vaxevanis, the decision to publish the list was carefully
weighed. "It was a major decision for us to publish the list, and it
was difficult for us to ascertain that this was the authentic list and
not one of the many forged lists which have been circulating," said
Vaxevanis. He added that his team of journalists at Hot Doc conducted
an extensive investigation to determine the legitimacy of the list
prior to publication. Vaxevanis stated that Hot Doc received the list
in an envelope containing a compact disc and a letter, from an
anonymous individual claiming to have a source within the government.
The "Lagarde List" originated from a larger list that was provided by
an HSBC employee to French authorities. This list contained names of
account holders from a number of other European countries, including
Greece. In April 2010, Giorgos Papakonstantinou, who was Greece's
finance minister at the time, allegedly was given the names of Greek
account holders on that list by Christine Lagarde, who was then
France's finance minister and who is now the head of the IMF. The USB
flash drive containing the list then changed hands several times,
ultimately ending up in the possession of Evangelos Venizelos, the
current leader of the PASOK political party. The list was subsequently
"The Greek public understands that these are lies that are being told
for particular reasons, and those reasons are evident by looking at
the names on the list," said Vaxevanis. These names included those of
politicians, businesspeople, media moguls, doctors and lawyers.
Vaxevanis emphasized that he was not accusing anyone on the list of
tax evasion, pointing out that this was also stated in Hot Doc
alongside the published list. He proclaimed his innocence on the
charges of violating privacy laws, stating that the publication of a
list of account holders at a particular bank is not a violation of
"What this reveals," according to Vaxevanis, "is that the elite of
Greek society are not contributing their fair share during this time
of crisis by paying taxes. Instead they are depositing their money
overseas, which is something the public has long suspected but could
not prove. The publication of this list was in the public interest."
According to Vaxevanis, his arrest was politically motivated, as the
authorities sought to "punish an independent magazine and an
independent voice." He added that there was an evident double-standard
in his arrest, noting that other prominent media outlets, including
newspapers such as Ta Nea and Proto Thema and the online news portal
zougla.gr, republished the list without facing any repercussions.
Furthermore, 20 days prior to the publication of the "Lagarde List" in
Hot Doc, Ta Nea published a list of well-known Greek entertainers and
their tax returns, without facing legal trouble.
What accounts for this apparent double-standard? Vaxevanis says that
the explanation is simple. "We're not on the list. They are people who
are close to the centers of power, and their names are on the list.
We're an independent magazine that is speaking out against corruption,
therefore we had to be punished." He added that the fact that most
Greek media outlets did not cover his arrest, even while the story
made headlines overseas, "demonstrates their guilt."
"Greece is ruled by a small group of politicians, businesspeople and
journalists with the same interests," said Vaxevanis. He added that
most journalists in Greece are unable to perform their jobs properly,
in part due to government pressure and threats, and also because
journalism in Greece, instead of serving as a watchdog of the
country's power structures, has become embedded within those
Vaxevanis saved his most serious allegation for the end of the
interview: he was recently the target of an assassination attempt.
According to Vaxevanis, a group of five individuals had hidden outside
his home, preparing to ambush him upon his return. By a stroke of
luck, Vaxevanis evaded the attackers, as he had unexpectedly arrived
home earlier than usual that day by car, instead of the motorbike he
usually rode. Vaxevanis said that the police have not treated the
matter seriously, dismissing the incident as an attempted robbery, but
he stated that he is aware of the identities of the five individuals,
who he claims are connected to the country's power structures and
whose identities he will soon reveal.
"Presently, attempts are being made to silence independent voices,"
said Vaxevanis. "Some will be silenced by discrediting them, while
others might be silenced physically."
When asked if he regretted publishing the list, Vaxevanis' response
was an adamant "no."
"How could I regret doing something that has united all of Greece?"
said Vaxevanis. "This is one of the few instances when all Greeks have
united, demanding change and an end to corruption."
Vaxevanis extended a special thank you to his supporters, who stood by
him between the time of his arrest and his acquittal, stating that
without their support, he "may have been sitting in a jail cell."
In closing, Vaxevanis vowed to continue his investigative work and his
pursuit of the truth.
"We will continue doing our job, and that is to uncover everything
that others wish to hide."
The podcast of the Dialogos Radio interview with Kostas Vaxevanis can
be heard here.
Follow Michael Nevradakis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dialogosmedia
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