Greece bank leak reporter Costas Vaxevanis sent to trial

Greek editor Costas Vaxevanis (C) leaves a prosecutor's office in Athens October 28 Costas Vaxevanis accuses the Greek government of covering up tax evasion

Journalist Costas Vaxevanis has been sent to trial for publishing the names of Greeks with Swiss bank accounts.

The magazine editor was arrested on Sunday and charged with breach of privacy.

Mr Vaxevanis published the names of 2,000 Greeks who hold accounts with HSBC in Switzerland in the Saturday edition of his Hot Doc magazine.

Some of those named, said to include many prominent Greeks, are suspected of using the accounts for tax evasion.

Mr Vaxevanis says the list he published is the same one that was given by the then French finance minister Christine Lagarde to her Greek counterpart.

'Protect tax evaders'

The list was originally leaked by an HSBC employee and then handed over by Ms Lagarde to Greek authorities two years ago, according to news agency AFP.

Since then, successive Greek governments have been accused of trying to cover it up.

Mr Vaxevanis's trial is set to open in Greece on 1 November. If he is found guilty, the 46 year-old faces up to three years in jail.

AFP reported that he told journalists outside the courtroom: "The prosecutor's office wants to protect tax evaders. I'm just doing my duty.

"Instead of arresting the tax evaders and the ministers who had the list in their hands, they're trying to arrest the truth and freedom of the press," Mr Vaxevanis said.

A police official earlier told Reuters: "The prosecutor issued a warrant for Vaxevanis's arrest because he published a list of names without special permission and violated the law on personal data.

"There is no proof that the persons or companies included in that list have violated the law. There is no evidence that they violated the law on tax evasion or money laundering."

The names on the list are said to include politicians, businessmen and others, which could prove inflammatory as ordinary Greeks are hit hard by deep austerity measures.

The BBC's Mark Lowen in Athens says the issue has reignited claims that tax evasion remains rife in Greece, and that the authorities still are not serious about tackling it.

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