Acquitted Ex-ELSTAT Chief Georgiou Still Greek Prosecutor’s Target

FILE - In this Thursday, July, 22, 2010 file photo former Greece's statistics chief Andreas Georgiou, stands outside the headquarters of the Statistics agency, in Athens. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File)

ATHENS – The case of already-convicted – on a technicality – Andreas Georgiou, the former head of Greece’s statistics agency ELSTAT – will go before Council of Appeals Court judges for a third time even though he had been acquitted of more serious charges.

Georgiou, who had been backed by the European Union’s statistics agency Eurostat and top EU officials, has said repeatedly he was being scapegoated for Greece’s eight-year-long economic and austerity crisis with the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA looking for a scalp.

The Supreme Court’s criminal section accepted a prosecutor’s appeal against his earlier acquittal on charges of falsifying budget data to justify Greece’s first international bailout of 110 billion euros ($113.91 billion) in 2010 when the now-defunct PASOK Socialists under Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou were in power.

The file of Georgiou, who now lives in the United States, is to be reexamined after the Supreme Court accepted another appeal lodged by prosecutor Xeni Dimitriou, said Kathimerini, as there is no double jeopardy law in Greece and charges can kept being brought even after acquittals.

In March, the prosecutor called for the retrial of Georgiou, who had been convicted of a lesser charge in 2017 for alleged breach of duty in a highly politicized case. He had appeale against a lower court’s decision, which gave him a suspended two-year prison sentence.

Earlier, another court had cleared him of the charges over his tenure at ELSTAT, which compiled figures on the country’s economy his critics said were rigged to force the government to seek a bailout without explaining why he would want that.

Georgiou was initially charged over the release of budget deficit data in 2010. He took over the statistical agency months after Greece had revised previously misreported budget deficit data and was spiraling into financial crisis.

Greece’s European bailout creditors have repeatedly defended Georgiou, arguing that his leadership was key to the country’s ability to provide reliable fiscal statistics and he had repeatedly said the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, which blamed previous governments for the country’s fiscal woes, wanted to get him as a trophy.

He was cleared by a first instance court of violation of duty until that verdict was contested by a prosecutor as there’s no double jeopardy protection in Greece and prosecutors can keep pressing charges against people if they don’t like the verdict.

Georgiou, who ran ELSTAT and delivered the sobering news in 2010 that Greece needed what turned into three rescue packages of 326 billion euros ($389.4 billion) was twice cleared by Greek courts before a relentless prosecution found him convicted of a technicality even though he was also backed by his European Union and Eurozone peers and the EU’s statistics agency Eurostat and American colleagues.

Last year, Eurozone finance ministers said the prosecution was sending out a bad signal to prospective investors being wooed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras that his ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition can’t be trusted, nor can the country’s statistics.

“Across the room in the Eurogroup, great concern was expressed about the ongoing court cases, the effect that it has internationally on the confidence in Greece and the process of modernization in Greece, including the independence, of course, of ELSTAT itself,” then- Eurozone chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said.

The Financial Times earlier wrote that Georgiou “has for six years been fighting accusations that, as head of Elstat, the statistical agency, he inflated Greece’s 2009 budget deficit, forcing the country to undergo deeper austerity. No matter that he had been acquitted of these charges a few months earlier, only to have the case reopened. No matter that the EU’s statisticians — whose standards he was supposed to be following — have endorsed both the procedures he followed and the figures he produced, describing last week’s trial as a “preset farce”. Mr Georgiou — a former IMF official and thus part of a hated international technocracy — is a convenient scapegoat for the failures of Greece’s political class.”