ASA Writes to Greek Prime Minister Regarding Charges against its former Chief Statistician, Dr. Andreas Georgiou

By Steve Pierson posted 03-29-2017 11:57

The Acting Chair of the ASA Committee on Scientific Freedom and Human Rights Robin Mejia and ASA Executive Director Ron Wasserstein yesterday sent a letter to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (i) expressing "deep concern over the legal proceedings against Andreas Georgiou, the former president of the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), and other senior ELSTAT officials"; and (ii) urging "the Government of Greece to unambiguously and publicly fulfill its Commitment on Confidence in Statistics ... by immediately taking all actions necessary to publicly defend against any efforts to undermine the credibility of the Greek statistics produced by Dr. Georgiou and his former colleagues so that all charges against these official statisticians are dropped."  

As explained in the ASA press release on the letter

Georgiou was appointed by the Greek parliament in 2010 to head ELSTAT and bring about the 

production of reliable Greek statistics. After many years of understated deficit and debt figures

reported by Greece, Georgiou recalculated official economic statistics according to European 

Union (EU) law. Statistics produced under his leadership were validated and published by

Eurostat (the official statistics body of the EU in which Greece is a member) for five consecutive 

years. ...

Yet, in 2013, Georgiou was accused of “undermining the national interest” and slapped with 

criminal charges for “false statements and complicity against the State” for allegedly inflating 

the Greek deficit and causing damages of 171 billion euro to the Greek state. Although various 

judicial procedures have several times concluded the charges against Georgiou are baseless,

the charges keep being revived. In addition, in December, he was acquitted of related 

misdemeanor charges for violation of duty, but that acquittal was reversed just 10 days later.

He is now to be retried for the same alleged crimes and thus subjected to double jeopardy.


In testament to the urgency of the situation, I learned after the original posting of this blog post the unfortunate news that a Greek appeals court had upheld a lower court conviction of Dr. Georgiou for slander, sentencing him to one-year imprisonment. A German reporter relayed the following (as translated using the Google browser translation feature): "Apparently, it was not verified whether the previous Greek statistics were correct or not. The judges only decided that Georgiou was not allowed to make this statement in public, because they had been awe-inspiring." [This paragraph added at 8:50 pm on 3/29/17.] 

The ASA previously wrote a letter to the Greek President in October 2016 expressing concern about the decision to press charges against Georgiou and echoing the call that that those working within the Greek statistical service must be able to perform their professional duties with integrity, and free of any political interference or pressure, real or implied. The International Statistical Institute (ISI) has been a leader on Georgiou's case with a listing of their activity and related information on their website.

The Mejia/Wasserstein letter is a two-page letter that was developed under the supervision of the ASA Committee on Scientific Freedom and Human Rights (CSFHR).

The CSFHR has been active in such cases and over the last several years championed the case of private Argentine statisticians being prosecuted for producing independent economic statistical data. A May 2016 update appears in Amstat News and one can see the ASA/ASA CSFHR letters by searching "Argentine" at the ASA letters page and the ASA science policy archives page.

See other ASA Science Policy blog entries. For ASA science policy updates, follow @ASA_SciPol on Twitter.