ATHENS – Once head of Greece’s statistics agency ELSTAT during a tumultuous period when the economy floundered and three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($352.75 billion) began, Andreas Georgiou is still fighting what he and supporters said were fake charges of falsifying data.
He was initially accused of inflating fiscal figures so that Greece could get its first bailout of 110 billion euros ($119.06 billion) in 2010 – after reports said previous governments cooked the books with phony information, precipitating the crisis.
Georgiou’s work was backed by the European Union statistics agency and international bodies and experts but he said he remains persecuted, so much that he left the country while still defending himself.
Greece’s Supreme Court will now hear his appeal appeal against a civil conviction for “simple slander” over what he said defending his calculations, successive governments unrelenting in going after him.
In what his supporters said was an attempt to make him a scapegoat for government failures and covering up deliberate attempts to present a misleading picture of the economy, he was blamed for the fiscal fiasco.
In a report, POLITICO indicated how he has been hounded and blamed for Greece needing loans to pay for generations of wild overspending and packing public payrolls with patronage hires.
“Georgiou did his duty like most other public servants around the world. He has been prosecuted and persecuted for his service to his country,”Ted Truman, a senior fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School, told the site.
“In the interest of their country, the Greek authorities must stop the ‘Big Lie’ and the Greek judicial system should play its appropriate role in this process,” despite concerns that the courts have become politicized and can be meddled with.
Georgiou, a former International Monetary Fund official, was appointed head of ELSTAT in 2010 and he said that the PASOK Socialist government of then-Premier George Papandreou – who optimistically said “The money is there” while campaigning – had underestimated the severity of Greece’s finances.
His calculations that the country’s deficit was even higher than previously estimated, at 15.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – which many analysts and experts confirmed was correct – embarrassed the government.
FIGURES DON’T LIE
He was hit with a series of lawsuits launched by ELSTAT board members who didn’t want to be blamed and were were supported either directly or indirectly by successive Greek governments and politicians.
He was accused of artificially inflating the deficit figures as part of a plot to bring severe austerity to Greece, but these charges brought by Greek prosecutors were dismissed several times by different courts and this case was formally closed in 2019, the news site noted.
But he was also charged with dereliction of duty, mainly for refusing to allow members of ELSTA’s board to approve the revised deficit numbers before sending them to Eurostat, the EU’s statistics agency.
He was acquitted in 2016 but with no double jeopardy law in Greece, he ewas prosecuted again on the same charges of which he had just been cleared and convicted a year later, receiving a two-year suspended jail sentence.
He fought back, asking for another trial and the case to be heard by the European Court or Justice, which the Greek government refused, and he’s awaiting a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights whether his rights were violated.
The appeal is over a civil defamation case brought by Georgiou’s predecessor, who accused him of slander for saying his own figures had been repeatedly validated and the integrity of prior reports were being questioned.
Under Greek law, accuracy is no defense for remarks if they are deemed to hurt a plaintiff’s reputation, such a low bar that slander suits are common even for what could be perceived as minor slights.
Georgiou was ordered to pay his predecessor 10,000 euros ($10,823) plus interest since 2014 and to publish the text of the court ruling as a public apology in a Greek newspaper, the report noted.
Truman told POLITICO the states are high
“First is the integrity of the Greek statistical system that Georgiou reformed,” he said. “Then is respect for and the integrity of official statistics and statisticians around the world, demonstration that the Greek judicial system is no longer dominated by partisan politics, and to compensate for the damage that has been done to Georgiou’s reputation and personal life.”