ATHENS (Reuters) - Colleagues of Greece’s former statistics chief, who faces accusations of falsifying fiscal data, have launched a crowdfunding initiative to help cover defense costs as his legal troubles look set to continue.
Andreas Georgiou, a veteran International Monetary Fund statistician, was appointed head of statistics service ELSTAT in 2010 with a mandate to restore the credibility of Greek statistics a few months after the country’s debt crisis erupted.
The crisis which saw Greece shut off from debt markets and forced Athens to seek bailout financing to avoid a sovereign bankruptcy was triggered by the revelation in late 2009 that the budget deficit had been grossly underestimated.
Georgiou’s troubles began in 2013 after a former ELSTAT employee claimed Georgiou had inflated budget deficit figures. The accusation led a prosecutor to bring felony charges against him and two other agency employees for falsifying fiscal data from 2009.
Although judicial authorities dropped the felony charge in July last year, a supreme court official said on Thursday that one of its prosecutors had appealed the decision two months later, meaning Greece’s top court will make the final ruling.
Georgiou left his job as head of Greece’s statistics service in August 2015 when his five-year term ended.
“We became alarmed at the continued and relentless persecution of Andreas and his colleagues, learning that he has already spent close to 20,000 euros on his legal defense,” said Hallgrimur Snorrason, a former head of Iceland Statistics.
Snorasson, a Eurostat-appointed expert at ELSTAT during 2010-12, teamed up with Gerry O’Hanlon, former head of the Irish statistics service CSO, to launch the crowdfunding initiative for Georgiou’s legal defense fund in March.
O’Hanlon chaired the good practice advisory committee at ELSTAT in 2013-14.
“We don’t see it just as a vehicle of collecting money but also to raise moral support in his struggle to defend himself before the courts,” Snorasson told Reuters.
The fund www.worldofcrowdfunding.com/en/andreas-v-georgiou-legal-defence-fund has raised nearly 5,000 euros so far.
Having followed the state of Greek statistics closely during those two years, Snorasson said there had been no falsification of any data by Georgiou, who took over at ELSTAT after deficit figures were corrected to show the fiscal hole had ballooned to more than 15 percent of national output.
“Most of the corrective job was done before Georgiou came on the job ... Unfortunately, the case will drag on and defense costs will likely rise,” Snorasson said.
He said the statistical figures at issue and the methodologies that underpinned them were consistently validated by Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics office, as meeting the highest European and international standards.
Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Catherine Evans