May 25, 2013
Greek journalist acquitted in Swiss accounts scandal
A Greek journalist who published the names of more than 2,000 of his compatriots who held Swiss bank accounts was acquitted on Thursday in a case that touched a nerve over the role of tax evasion in the country's debt crisis.
The trial of Costas Vaxevanis, editor of the weekly Hot Doc magazine, had aroused international concern and intense interest among Greeks hit by the impact of the country's economic collapse and angry at the privileges of the elite.
He could have faced up to two year years in prison on charges of violating data privacy laws that Vaxevanis said were politically motivated and the result of politicians protecting an "untouchable" wealthy class.
His speedy arrest and trial following publication of the "Lagarde List" at the weekend - so named for Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund - touched a nerve in near-bankrupt Greece, where rampant tax evasion is undermining a struggle to cut public costs and raise revenue under an EU/IMF bailout deal.
It also enraged many who are already furious over the failure of consecutive governments to crack down on the rich while years of recession have wiped out a fifth of economic output and hammered middle-class living standards.
After an all-day trial the courtroom - packed with journalists, rights advocates and Greek citizens - erupted in cheers when the judge pronounced Vaxevanis not guilty. He lifted his fists in the air and his teenage daughter embraced him.
"This ruling is not only right, but it frees journalism. Journalists in Greece have been held hostage for a very long time" the curly-haired unshaven e d itor said after the verdict.
"This ruling gives our colleagues the possibility to do their jobs without handcuffs."
Greece has so far failed to convict any big names of tax evasion, fuelling popular disenchantment with a political class that promised to force the wealthy to share some of the pain of the debt crisis.