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Greece's parliament OKs probe of former finance minister

Former finance minister Georges Papakonstantinou addresses to the Parliament in Athens on Thursday Jan. 17, 2013. Greece's Parliament is debating whether to investigate four former senior members of the government including Papaconstantinou, over how leaked data on Greeks who banked in Switzerland was handled. All four deny wrongdoing. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

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By The Associated Press
Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 9:26 p.m.

ATHENS — Greek lawmakers voted early on Friday to investigate former finance minister George Papaconstantinou over his handling of data on Greeks with Swiss bank accounts and whether he amended the list to remove three of his relatives.

The lawmakers voted in a marathon 16-hour Parliament session by 265 votes in favor and six against. With the three-party coalition government backing the call for an investigation, the motion had been all but assured to pass.

Two proposals by opposition parties for broader investigations failed. One had been to start probes into the handling of the data by former finance minister Evangelos Venizelos, who currently heads one of the coalition parties, and the other was to expand the investigation to two former prime ministers.

French authorities gave the list of names to Athens in 2010 as Greece's economy was imploding. Greek authorities then failed to investigate the data for potential tax evasion, sparking outrage at a time of severe salary and pension cuts, as well as spiraling unemployment.

Papaconstantinou insists he did not amend the list and contended during the parliamentary debate that he was the target of a vicious smear campaign.

“I did not tamper with the data,” he said.

The three relatives who were found missing from the list have since given evidence to authorities that the funds in the Swiss accounts were legal and taxed, he noted. The list of about 2,000 Greeks with bank accounts in Switzerland is part of data on 24,000 HSBC customers allegedly stolen from the bank by an employee.

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