November 26, 2020


Vienna, 29/10/2012

On 28 October 2012, Greek journalist Kostas Vaxevanis expected the police to come and detain him several hours after having published a list of 2,059 names of Greek residents who hold bank accounts at the HSBC bank in Geneva. Vaxevanis published a special issue of his Hot Doc magazine, dedicated to this list.

He was arrested in the northern suburbs of Athens on Sunday, minutes after he had tweeted his whereabouts and challenged police waiting outside to pick him up, according to the Athens News. He was released three hours later and ordered to appear in court on Monday, 29 October. However, the hearing has been deferred to 1 November. Kostas Vaxevanis is expected to be charged for violating personal data.

In 2010, Greek authorities received an alleged list of Greek account holders in the Swiss Bank from the then French Minister of Finance and present Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagard. For two years, according to numerous news accounts, this list circulated from one drawer to another, since several ministers tried to avoid taking action. Finally, Vaxevanis decided to publish the names, arguing official inaction. Media claim that some account holders may be tax dodgers. Apparently, high profile politicians and business people are named.

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), considers that that press freedom, data privacy protection and the right of the public to know have all to be respected. “I call on the court to establish if the list published by Hot Doc is a violation of privacy. At the same time, the court should take into account that the public has the right to know if account holders are also tax dodgers, especially now, when Greeks are expected to endure severe economic cuts,” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said. “As a press freedom organization, we believe that the public has the right to know and that journalists should not be detained. I condemn the detention of Vaxevanis, “Vujovic added.