* Democratic Left party expels two lawmakers over probe call
* Greek govt majority cut to 164 in 300-seat parliament
(Adds former finance minister's quote)
ATHENS Jan 7 The smallest party in Greece's
government expelled two lawmakers on Monday for backing an
investigation into a ruling party leader over his handling of a
list of possible tax cheats, cutting the fragile coalition's
majority in parliament.
Democratic Left lawmakers Odysseas Voudouris and Paris
Moutsinas supported a call by the main opposition Syriza party
to look into Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos's role in a
scandal over the so-called "Lagarde list" that names rich Greeks
who stashed money abroad.
"What is now clear is that the two deputies not only express
a different opinion but also support a different political
plan," the party said in a statement confirming their expulsion
from its parliamentary group.
The expulsions left the ruling coalition with 164 lawmakers
in the 300-seat parliament.
The Lagarde list - and the failure of successive governments
to investigate those named on it - has provoked outrage among
austerity-hit Greeks furious that authorities have done little
to crack down on tax evasion by the wealthy elite.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's government has rejected
calls to look into accusations that Venizelos - a former finance
minister who heads the PASOK party - has not done enough to
pursue the alleged tax cheats.
The government has instead focused on the role of
Venizelos's predecessor at the finance ministry, George
Syriza submitted to parliament on Monday its proposal over
the set-up of a parliamentary committee that will investigate
both former finance ministers.
The government last month backed an investigation into
Papaconstantinou after prosecutors found names of his relatives
were deleted from the list when he was in office.
Papaconstantinou has denied any wrongdoing.
He appeared on TV late on Monday to defend himself, saying
the parliamentary committee's investigation would give him a
chance to prove his innocence.
"I only want to clear my name," Papaconstantinou told state
television NET. "I'm ready to do whatever it takes to prove what
I have and haven't done ... We must shed light on this case."
The list, originally obtained by French authorities in 2010,
contains 2,062 account holders with about 2 billion euros of
deposits at global bank HSBC in Switzerland.
The Greek government obtained the list from French
authorities in 2010, but little was heard of it until officials
revealed its existence late last year.
It was then published by a Greek magazine, whose editor was
immediately arrested and then acquitted of charges of violating
The list, named after IMF chief Christine Lagarde who was
French finance minister at the time, has become a symbol of both
the tax evasion partly blamed for pushing Greece to a financial
crisis and the reluctance of authorities to go after evaders.
(Reporting by Renee Maltezou and Lefteris Papadimas; Writing by
Deepa Babington; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)