The Lagarde list is back in the news in Greece, not only because of the new government’s pledge to investigate the names it contains for possible tax evasion but because of SwissLeaks, an international corroborative project to investigate the full extent of the how HSBC in Switzerland helped clients around the world dodge taxes and hide millions
This week, media outlets associated with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), including the Guardian, Le Monde and BBC Panorama, began publishing findings from their research on a trove of almost 60,000 leaked files from HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary that provide details on over 100,000 clients and their bank accounts.
The new data shows that there were at least 2,148 Greek clients with accounts at the HSBC, which is 86 more than is contained in the Lagarde list held by the authorities. A former finance minister, Yiorgos Papakonstantinou, is facing trial for removing the names of three relatives from the version of the Lagarde list originally received by the government from the French authorities.
In Greece, the ICIJ’s local partner in the SwissLeaks project is Ta Nea, one of the country’s biggest mainstream newspapers.
Ta Nea is in possession of the additional Greek names, 41 of which it says have deposits of over €1m euros.
For reasons only known to itself, Ta Nea has decided to specify the religious background of one family and one individual among these large depositors.
The piece refers to a “well-known family of Jewish origin, whose members were born in Athens, Thessaloniki and Tel Aviv” as well as to a “rentier of Jewish origin who was born in Thessaloniki”.
It’s important to point out that the religious affiliation of the other account holders on the list is not provided. So, readers are not informed if the “businessman involved in shipping and born in Chios” or “three brothers born in Greece” are Orthodox, Catholics or atheists. Not that this information would be of any relevance.
Ta Nea is not the first to deliberately single out the Jewish background of alleged tax evaders on the SwissLeaks/LagardeList files. In October 2012, Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos told MPs of his unpleasant impression that three of the names were of Greek Jewish origin when he looked at print outs from the Lagarde list.
In a country where antisemitic prejudice is widespread and the neonazi Golden Dawn party is now the third strongest force in parliament, Ta Nea, by identifying tax evasion with Jews, has provided grist to the conspiracy mill made up of the country’s many antisemitic and fascist newspapers, blogs and websites.
Already, thanks to the vicious copypaste culture in Greek online news media, Ta Nea‘s information about the “Jewish origin” (εβραϊκής καταγωγής) of some SwissLeaks deposit holders been disseminated widely across the internet and is no longer shielded behind its own paywall.
The ICIJ’s choice of Ta Nea as its exclusive partner in Greece was questioned last year when it participated in the LuxLeaks project that looked that the generous tax evasion deals offered by the Luxembourg government to multinationals.
Unlike most ICIJ partners, Ta Nea seemed to bury its own story and failed to name the Greek companies on the last. It was, as the ThePressProject observed, as if Ta Nea “sabotaged their own exclusive, opting not to mention the names of the companies and the Greek businessmen involved on its front page for as long as the LuxLeaks coverage lasted”.
Given the antisemitic tone to Ta Nea’s coverage on SwissLeaks, it would be appropriate for the ICIJ to state whether it condones what it’s Greek partner has done.