Earlier this month, Greek investigative journalist Kostas Vaxevanis was acquitted by an Athens court of charges that he breached data privacy laws with the publication of a list of tax cheats and money launderers.
Vaxevanis, who publishes the investigative news magazine Hot Doc, faced two years in prison and a €30,000 ($38,000) fine over that publication’s outing of 2,000 Greeks who hold secret banks accounts at HSBC’s private banking arm in Switzerland.
Known as the “Lagarde List,” data on high-profile offenders had been transferred to Greek authorities by Christine Lagarde, the former French Finance Minister and current head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), where it languished for two years.
While the Greek people are forced into abject poverty under an “austerity” regime designed to enrich their corporate masters, a criminal class of political overseers backed by brutal police and rampaging neo-Nazis, billions of euros were shielded as successive “left” and “right” governments failed to act.
The Vaxevanis arrest was unique in one respect: unlike official probes into drug money laundering, tax fraud and terrorist financing by major banks, explosive allegations of widespread financial corruption was kick-started by a journalist’s investigative digging despite government complicity and cover-up.
And as with other major disclosures which have come to light in the last decade–from the Iraq-Niger uranium fraud, the Downing Street Memo or spying on UN officials by Western intelligence services–Hot Doc’s revelations began with insider leaks from a whistleblower.
The source of Madame Lagarde’s List was Hervé Falciani, a computer services specialist with HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) N.A., who supervised data migration on individual accounts.
Increasingly troubled by the bank’s dubious practices, for two years beginning in 2006, he mirrored account information onto his laptop.
Austerity” Regimes: Fronts for Global Crime
The problem of money laundering, tax fraud and the illegal offshoring of wealth isn’t solely an issue for Britain, Greece or for that matter, the United States: it is a global phenomenon. One which clearly demonstrates, as economic analyst Michel Chossudovsky, the director of the Center for Research on Globalization has long observed, represents the “criminalization of the state,” that is, the end stage of a capitalist system in terminal crisis.
On the one hand, the managed drug trade overseen by wealthy banking elites, and exploited as a tool by Western intelligence services, and on the other, moves to impose “fiscal austerity” on a planetary scale would seem to be unrelated phenomenon. On the contrary, they represent two sides of the same coin, the upward transfer of wealth by well-connected insiders seeking geopolitical advantage for those in on the game.
Indeed, the same crooked bankers now demanding that supposedly “irresponsible” governments get their “fiscal houses in order” are the very miscreants who thrive on the chaos arising from laundered drug money and financial speculation.
Although Hot Doc’s publication of secret HSBC accounts embarrassed the Greek government and their European paymasters, moves to reduce Greek workers to abject poverty continue apace.
With the Greek government knuckling under to “austerity” measures demanded by the European Central Bank (ECB), European Union (EU) and the IMF, a new €31.5bn ($39.9bn) “bailout”–designed to indemnify hyena bankers, not struggling Greeks, from losses–will impose ever-harsher conditions on the working class.
Lining the pockets of institutional lenders who drove the crisis in the first place, let’s call the raft of complex cross-currency “swaps,” dodgy derivatives and “rescue packages” what they are: a filthy grift which Greeks are forced to pay with their lives.
The “Troika’s” latest demands include the imposition of a six-day work week, the continued sell-off of public assets to vampire investors at fire sale prices and the virtual destruction of the social safety net.
Quite naturally, such measures are viewed as a splendid means to bailout financial speculators in Berlin, Wall St. and the City of London responsible for looting the Greek economy. And if millions of people are consigned to the scrap heap? Well, tough luck suckers!