2013-01-22 Hellenic Statistical Authority

Date: 
January 22, 2013
Type: 
Prosecution
Status: 
Verified
New/Ongoing: 
New Incident
Region/Sub-region: Country or Territory: 
Institution: 
Hellenic Statistical Authority

In late January 2013, Greek authorities indicted Andreas Georgiou, a lead statistician for Greece’s Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), on charges of “artificially inflat[ing] Greece’s 2009 public deficit figures.” He was eventually acquitted of this charge; however, as of this report, he is facing charges of “violation of duty.”

Dr. Georgiou is a Greek economist who has taught at the University of Michigan and the Economics University of Bratislava, and worked at the International Monetary Fund for 21 years. In 2010, Dr.  Georgiou was appointed by the Greek Parliament to lead ELSTAT in improving the accuracy and maintenance of Greece’s financial data, in collaboration with Eurostat, an EU statistical authority.

In the years leading up to his appointment, Greek officials had relied on financial data that had been disputed internationally, including by the EU Commission; their reliance on this data was considered to be partially responsible for Greece’s economic crisis. Soon after his appointment, ELSTAT revised its reporting to indicate that Greece’s 2009 budget deficit made up over 15% of the country’s GDP; this figure was previously reported at 13.6%. 

Starting in late 2011, Dr. Georgiou had reportedly been placed under investigation following accusations from former ELSTAT employees that he and his staff falsified adjustments to the 2009 figures, in order to support austerity measures subsequently imposed by the IMF and EU Commission. In January 2013, a Greek prosecutor charged Dr. Georgiou, along two other ELSTAT staff, with “artificially inflat[ing] Greece’s 2009 public deficit figures.” Dr. Georgiou publicly refuted the charge and commented that his work was in accordance with Eurostat’s statistical standards. The EU Commission also commented that they and Eurostat had confidence in ELSTAT’s data, as reported under Dr. Georgiou’s leadership.

Since he was first indicted, courts have repeatedly acquitted Dr. Georgiou and opened cases on new charges against him, including “false statements and complicity against the State,” “criminal slander,” and “ violation of duty.” On May 26, 2017, a court acquitted him of charges of “complicity against the State;” however he is expected to return to court on July 19 to face charges of “violation of duty.”

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the prosecution of a scholar in apparent retaliation for  academic content and conduct, which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Greece is a party. State authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with the rights to academic freedom, so long as it is exercised peacefully. Prosecutions aimed at limiting research undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally. State officials have an obligation to comply with internationally recognized standards of free expression, due process, and fair trial.

Sources: 
https://www.wsj.com/articles/greek-court-acquits-ex-statistics-chief-and...
https://www.wsj.com/articles/greek-court-acquits-former-statistics-chief...
http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21706276-disturbing-...
https://www.isi-web.org/images/news/20130304ISIGreece-Statement.pdf
http://www.amstat.org/asa/files/pdfs/POL-ASALetterRegardingAndreasGeorgi...
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9819946/Greek-prosecu...
http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/chief-greek-statistician-char...
https://www.ft.com/content/fc5e295a-663b-11e2-b967-00144feab49a
https://www.ft.com/content/e4757e14-6a02-11e6-a0b1-d87a9fea034f