Kostas Vaxevanis published details of of more than 2,000 wealthy Greeks with cash deposits in Switzerland
Kostas Vaxevanis was acquitted almost a year ago for leaking the 'Lagarde list' in his investigative magazine Hot Doc/ Photograph: Orestis Panagiotou/EPA
The journalist who caused uproar in Greece by publishing the so-called 'Lagarde list' of suspected tax evaders with bank accounts in Switzerland, is due in court on Tuesday on charges of infringing privacy laws.
Almost a year after he was acquitted of the crime, Kostas Vaxevanis will be in the dock again after a public prosecutor took the unusual step of demanding he be retried for revealing the identities of more than 2,000 wealthy Greeks with cash deposits in Geneva.
"What is at stake is the ability of a journalist to exercise his duty as a public watchdog in a case of major public interest," his lawyer, Harris Ikonomopoulos said.
A hotly guarded secret until it was printed by Vaxevanis in his investigative magazine Hot Doc last October, the list details the holdings of 2,059 Greeks at the Geneva branch of HSBC.
Christine Lagarde, the then French finance minister , handed the list to Greek authorities in October 2010 with the express purpose of pursuing tax offenders.
Lagarde, now the IMF's managing director, hoped it would shine a light on tax evasion, wideley seen as the root of the debt-stricken country's financial woes.
But instead of putting it to such use, her Greek counterpart George Papaconstantinou has been accused of deliberately failing to act on it. This year, the Greek parliament voted to send the former finance minister to court after MPs found there was enough evidence to suggest he had tampered with the dossier to remove the names of his relatives included in it.
"Other European countries that received similar lists from France investigated the persons and entities on them and collected a significant amount in taxes that had been evaded," Ikonomopoulos said.
"Vaxevanis published the Lagarde list after discovering that Papaconstantinou had received it and done nothing to investigate its content."
He has vehemently denied that he erased the names of two of his cousins and their spouses. Instead, he has argued that he has been turned into a scapegoat by an establishment now under intense pressure to clean up the country's scandal-plagued political scene.
The British-educated economist is much loathed for being the architect of the punitive austerity measures outlined in Greece's first EU-IMF sponsored rescue programme.
But the case has also highlighted press censorship.
The demand that the journalist be retried after the public prosecutor's office deemed his initial acquittal to be flawed triggered international condemnation and was met with broad disbelief in Greece.
"It is ridiculous that I am being put on trial for publishing the list when parliament has decided to send the minister who hid it to court," Vaxevanis told the Guardian on the eve of his hearing. "It is tragic that this should be happening when Greek authorities, from the courts to the police, have found it impossible to clamp down on tax avoidance and the extreme right Golden Dawn party, preferring to target journalists who reveal the truth instead."