Former Greek Finance Minister Faces Treason Charges

Greece's maverick former finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, is facing possible criminal charges and jail time for his role in the secret hacking of government tax records in preparation for the country's exit from the euro, according to the Times newspaper.

The Greek Supreme Court handed down two suits filed against Varoufakis by the public to the Greek Parliament on Tuesday, which will now decide whether to lift the immunity enjoyed by Greek MPs in order to put him on trial for high treason and breach of duty, which both carry sentences of between five and 25 years in prison.

Greek law gives all MPs and government ministers immunity from prosecution, unless they are caught in the act of committing a crime, but this immunity can be removed by a vote of the country's parliament.

The private suits were filed by the mayor of Stylida, Apostolos Gletsos, and head of the Teleia party, Panayiotis Giannopoulos, who is also a lawyer.

Varoufakis is accused of collecting the online tax codes of state employees in preparation for a potential closure of the Greek banks, while, at the same time, also negotiating with European creditors for a new bailout.

The plan would have enabled state employees to remain being paid via a parallel payment system, using the drachma (the country's former currency before the euro replaced it in 2002) if Greece were to leave the euro.

Varoufakis took office as the Greek finance minister on 27 January and left his post earlier this month, following pressure from European leaders and his own Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras after the breakdown of negotiations with the country's international creditors.

The parallel payment system, so-called "Plan B," was divulged by Varoufakis himself on July 16, just over a week after he quit as finance minister.

In a 25-minute telephone transcript, leaked by the Greek newspaper Kathimerini on Monday, Varoufakis had told a group of private investors, including his friend Lord Norman Lamont, that he had been planning for a parallel system of liquidity that could allow a Greek exit from the euro "at a drop of hat".

He further confirmed to them during the conversation that he had been working on the plan from September of last year until January 2015, before Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' Syriza party had even won power in Greece.

He told investors that he secretly worked with a computer expert from Columbia University, who was also his "childhood friend," to hack the private identification numbers of state employees, under the instruction of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

He then copied their private details onto a computer so they could continue being paid in drachma should a Greek exit from the euro occur.

Meanwhile, five other legal cases have been put forward against a team of experts from whom Varoufakis allegedly sought help earlier this year to hatch the plan.

On Monday, Varoufakis defended himself in a blog post, saying he had always acted in the best interests of the Greek people was "completely against dismantling the euro," contrary to his alleged activities.

However, Varoufakis's political opponents seized on the accusations. "It can all happen quite fast," Anna Asimakopoulou, a leading member of the conservative New Democracy party told the Times of Varoufakis's potential indictment. "The question, though, is whether parliament, controlled by Varoufakis's Syriza party, will do so quickly or stall for time," she added.

Greece came close to leaving the euro after months of intense talks between Greece and eurozone leaders, before finally agreeing to an 11th-hour deal on July 13. The new deal stipulates that Greece must impose new austerity measures across the country in return for talks on a third international bailout.

Twenty-four other conservative lawmakers, including Asimakopoulou, have demanded an explanation from Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras over Varoufakis's claims he was working under Tsipras's direction.

Asimakopoulou told the Times: "The working assumption was that the government was operating all this time with the interest of keeping the country in the euro."

"Learning that it wasn't is troubling. What's more, these revelations leave open the question of whether this plan has been scrapped or just shelved. We need to know," Asimakopoulou said.