Police detain magazine editor for breaching Greece's privacy law

A Greek journalist has been arrested for publishing the names of wealthy Greek citizens with deposits totalling €2bn (£1.bn) in Swiss bank accounts.

Kostas Vaxevanis, editor of the Greek magazine Hot Doc, published the so-called "Lagarde list." It's an electronic file given in 2010 by then French finance minister Christine Lagarde to the Greek government.

It names 2,000 Greeks with Swiss accounts who are regarded as potential tax evaders. Yet the Athens government is alleged to have failed to take any action in the two years since it received the information.

In a challenge to the authorities, a major Greek newspaper, Ta Nea, today reprinted the names. It devoted 10 pages to the list.

The centre-left daily said it was not leaping to any conclusions about "its content nor the connotations it evokes in a large part of the public." It stressed there was no evidence linking anyone on the list to tax evasion.

Vaxevanis, who argues that he was exercising press freedom by publishing the list, was arrested for breaching Greece's data privacy law by revealing citizens' private information, according to a police spokesman.

Greece's former finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, said earlier this month that he had received the list in August 2011 from finance ministry officials and deemed that it couldn't be legally used.

He said he handed it over to the government, which passed it on to the country's financial crimes squad, SDOE.

George Papaconstantinou, who preceded Venizelos as finance minister, has admitted receiving the list from Lagarde.

The list has drawn criticism from both opposition parties, as well as politicians within the governing coalition. Most comments link the failure to track down possible tax evasion by those on the list to the government's preparations to introduce new austerity measures to secure international aid.

Britain's National Union of Journalists has condemned the arrest of Vaxevanis. General secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: "It is outrageous that the person who has unmasked wrong-doing has been arrested and charged. This is a blatant attack on the freedom of the press."

The NUJ will be working with its partner organisations, the International Federation of Journalists and the European Federation of Journalists, to register its condemnation of the arrest.Sources:Bloomberg/Reuters/NUJ

Watch a video of Kostas Vaxevanis while he was hiding out, published to YouTube on Oct. 28.

© Guardian News and Media 2012