Greece’s former finance minister should be prosecuted, lawmakers say

Former socialist Finance minister George Papaconstantinou at the Greek Parliament in Athens on January 17, 2013.

Because he is a lawmaker, Parliament has to approve the lifting of immunity before any prosecution can proceed. In a secret ballot late Monday, 220 deputies in the 300-seat Parliament voted in favor of the former minister being prosecuted for at least one charge, and 166 for all three. Seventeen deputies were absent. Addressing lawmakers before the vote, Papaconstantinou denied wrongdoing and said he was being targeted “for one simple reason, being the finance minister who put the country in the bailout process.” A council of judges will convene, probably later this week, to decide whether Papaconstantinou should face the criminal charges outlined in Parliament. While it is not illegal to hold a Swiss bank account, and there is no evidence that anyone broke the law, suspicions are high in Greece that some of those named in the list may have opened the accounts to avoid paying taxes to the Greek state.

Chinese economy set to turn around, no hard landing: finance minister

A Xinhua report on July 12 that quoted him saying he expected growth to come in at 7 percent caused brief market confusion, but Xinhua later changed the report to quote him as saying 7.5 percent. “We see domestic power generation and electricity consumption increased by 4 percent, and the service industry’s usage of electricity increased 8 percent,” Lou said, arguing that the increases showed efforts to shift China’s economy towards services from manufacturing were bearing fruit. “None of my fellow delegates think China is going to have a hard landing.” The interview was published late on Saturday, a day after Beijing announced it would remove the floor under bank lending rates in a move to free up interest rates, which planners hope will put China’s economy on a more sustainable growth path. Lou said China would continue tax reforms to promote growth, in particular by converting sales taxes to value-added taxes (VAT), while cutting down on paperwork and application requirements for Chinese businesses. His views were more mixed on the country’s real estate industry, which regulators and economists fear is distorted by speculation and fuels inflation.

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