Greek courts have ordered a preliminary investigation after allegations of deliberate miscalculation of the national deficit by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT). Chief financial prosecutor, Grigoris Peponis ordered the investigation on Monday, after accusations by a former ELSTAT board member, Zoi Georganta that the Greek national deficit was artificially inflated in order for the country to be lead to a harsher bailout package. According to the former board member, ELSTAT in cooperation with EUROSTAT fudged data related to the Greek national deficit aiming to make it appear that it was greater than the Irish deficit, so as to expedite a harsher bailout. Court of First Instance prosecutor Popi Papandreou has been tasked with investigating Ms. Georganda’s claims and the possibility that crimes have been committed against the national economy.
During the weekend, the Greek government tried to undermine the credibility of both the service and its executives. Former minister of finance, George Papakonstantinou, currenty serving as minister of environment and energy, downplayed the credibility of Ms. Georganta, quoting her saying that “Greece is under German occupation”. Earlier last week, the Greek government initiated action to remove members of the ELSTAT board. This was aimed at 5 members of the board excluding the president, Andreas Georgiou, whose actions have been widely criticised by the rest of the board and who was a former IMF employee until accepting this position. In a radio interview in vimafm, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos -a lawyer representing the former vice president of ELSTAT, Nikos Logothetis- blamed A. Georgiou for constantly “saying yes to every EUROSTAT wish ” and commenting on the removal of the board members saying: “they managed to oust the scientists and keep the puppets”. According to Mr Dimitrakopoulos, it is evident from the president’s email correspondence that he was under pressure by lenders to include data that would “inflate” the result of the deficit estimation, and that he proceeded to satisfy these requests accordingly without further scientific evidence. Moreover, Ms Georganta, added during a radio interview in stokokkinofm that the credibility of the results of the general census should also be under scrutiny.
Today, yet another member of ELSTAT’s board, Kostas Skordas, supported Ms. Georganda’s claims, giving a detailed account of the questionable methodology regarding the inclusion of deficits from publicly owned companies in the calculation of the deficit, a practice that he considers unusual.