Greek former finance minister ejected in tax scandal

A Greek tax-dodging scandal took a new twist Friday with the revelation that a former minister supposedly scrubbed names from a list of alleged tax avoiders.

Greece's former finance minister George Papaconstantinou, who helped draw up the debt-ridden nation's first austerity drive, was swiftly booted from his socialist Pasok party after the alleged discrepancies came to light.

In a statement announcing his ejection, Pasok said there were "clear indications" that names of family members had been deleted from the list.

Greek prosecutors are investigating some 2,000 holders of HSBC bank accounts in Switzerland for suspected tax evasion, according to media reports.

Papaconstantinou "categorically" denied having altered the list, which had been given to him personally by France's then finance minister Christine Lagarde in 2010, the current head of the International Monetary Fund.

Media have dubbed the case the "Lagarde list".

Greek prosecutors provoked an outcry by going after a journalist who had printed names supposedly on the list.

The list was originally leaked by an HSBC employee before being passed to Greece by Lagarde.

Authorities have claimed the list was illegally obtained and hence could not be used in the battle against tax evasion, a chronic problem in the heavily indebted and recession-hit country.

But mounting anger against a new round of austerity cuts, imposed by Greece's international creditors, put pressure on the government to seek the list.

Officials maintained that the original Lagarde list had gone missing, prompting Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras to ask France to re-send it.

Papaconstantinou also denied knowing which family members had appeared on the list.

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