Former Greek statistics chief found guilty of breach of duty

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece’s former chief statistician was convicted on Tuesday of “breach of duty” for having failed to tell the statistics agency’s board that he had sent Greek fiscal data for 2009 to its European counterpart Eurostat.

Andreas Georgiou, a former International Monetary Fund economist, was found guilty by an appeals court and handed a two-year suspended sentence. He was acquitted of charges that he did not convene board meetings and that, while at statistics agency ELSTAT, he kept a job at the IMF for a few months.

Lawyers for Georgiou, who stepped down in 2015 after five years running ELSTAT through the height of the Greek and euro zone debt crisis, said he would appeal.

“Mr. Andreas Georgiou believes fully in his innocence, for which he will fight for as long as it takes... until his final and complete acquittal,” the lawyers said in a statement.

The ruling can be appealed at Greece’s top court.

The prosecutor said in court that Georgiou’s actions displayed “substantial moral disdain”.

Some Greek politicians have said his recalculation of the country’s public finances in 2009 showed Greece was seriously fiscally derailed and needed to be bailed out.

Discrepancies in the way the budget deficit was calculated before 2010 -- which angry euro zone partners say concealed the extent of the deficit -- helped trigger the financial crisis that subsequently engulfed Greece and the euro zone.

Georgiou has denied allegations that he exaggerated Greece’s debt problems or helped Athens’ foreign creditors, including the IMF, his former employer.

In 2013, Georgiou was charged with inflating figures for the 2009 budget deficit, which he denied. Those charges were dropped in May but a Supreme Court prosecutor has proposed that the case be reopened.

Georgiou’s case has seen fellow senior economists and statisticians from around the world rally behind him. Some are helping to pay for his defense costs.

International lenders who have extended three bailout loans worth a total 260 billion euros to Greece since 2010 have also expressed concerns over the case.

An EU Commission spokeswoman told a news briefing after Tuesday’s ruling: “We have full confidence in the reliability and accuracy of ELSTAT data during 2010 to 2015 and beyond.”

Reporting by Constantinos Georgizas in Athens; Additional reporting by Francesco Guarascio in Brussels; Writing by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Catherine Evans