The International Statistical Institute (ISI) has joined a chorus of support for Andreas Georgious, the former head of Greece’s statistics agency ELSTAT, whose acquittal on charges of falsifying data to justify the country’s first bailout was annulled for a second time by the country’s highest court.
With no double jeopardy laws in Greece, prosecutors can keep coming after people even if they’ve been acquitted and keep trying for convictions.
The case of Georgiou, who had also worked for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), one of the country’s international creditors, now will again go to the Council of Appeals Court judges who have cleared him twice as the pinball game of convictions and reversals keeps going back and forth.
Georgiou, who moved to back to the United States, said he’s been scapegoated by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras who’s looking for someone to blame for the country’s eight-year-long economic crisis as he has plummeted in polls after reneging on anti-austerity promises.
In a statement, ISI described the court decision as “unprecedented” and “extraordinary,” noting that the relentless prosecution of Georgiou and two of his former work colleagues is viewed as politically motivated.
“International commentators are increasingly stating openly that political factors appear to be driving this prolonged prosecution of Andreas Georgiou to serve interests of political forces within Greece and that this will be maintained until the ‘right’ decision is achieved,” the institute said, suggesting Tsipras won’t stop until he can find a court to convict Georgiou yet again.
“Such perceptions are very damaging for the Greek judicial system and for Greece in general, its democracy and its hoped for economic recovery,” it added
ISI said it is “extremely puzzling” that the Supreme Court keeps overturning acquitals of other courts noting that the European Union’s statistics agency Eurostat said the data from ELSTAT when Georgiou was its head was accurate.
This must be considered as a gross abuse of their human rights. This situation, which has dragged on since 2011, has caused them and their families considerable stress when they were simply doing their job with the integrity expected of senior official statisticians,” the institute said.
“The International Statistical Institute calls upon the Greek State to stop these inconsistencies and this injustice,” it added, calling on the EU, one of Greece’s lenders and overseers, to tell Greece to knock it off and take “whatever steps are necessary” to address the “fundamental contradiction” of providing for their assistance to Greece on the basis of statistics that are repeatedly challenged at the highest level of the Greek judiciary.
ISI’s statement followed one by the American Statistical Association Board (ASA) earlier which also said the persecution of Georgiou had to stop.
FOR THE DEFENSE
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 Tsipras that SYRIZA-led coalition, which includes the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) can’t be trusted, nor can the country’s statistics in their hands.
“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.