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Amherst College alumnus Andreas Georgiou exposed condition of Greek economic crisis

  • Amherst College alumnus Andreas Georgiou, center, talks Saturday about his role in exposing the true condition of Greek’s economic crisis in 2010. He is flanked by supporters Edwin Truman, left, and Geoffrey Woglom who participated in a lecture during reunion weekend at Amherst College.   STEPHANIE MURRAY

  • Amherst College alumni and their families gather Saturday in Johnson Chapel for a talk about alumnus Andreas Georgiou's role as a statistician exposing the extent of the Greek economic crisis in 2010. STEPHANIE MURRAY



@StephMurr_Jour
Saturday, May 26, 2018

AMHERST — Sophocles and Euripides come to mind as masters of Greek tragedies. Amherst College alumnus Andreas Georgiou shared a different tragic tale during his alma mater's annual reunion weekend on Saturday. 

Georgiou was the statistician who exposed the true condition of Greece's economic crisis in 2010. He was then blamed for it, and continues to face prosecution by the Greek government. 

Some 100 people gathered in the Johnson Chapel to hear Georgiou, who graduated in 1983, talk about his fall from grace during the Greek economic crisis. He was joined by 1963 Amherst graduate and economist Edwin Truman and economics professor Geoffrey Woglom, who are among a group of alumni and faculty supporting Georgiou, a native of Greece.

"Andreas is the protagonist in a Greek tragedy," Truman said. "He represents everything that is best about Amherst and we, collectively, should be very proud of him." 

The event was among the weekend lectures, concerts, meals and other gatherings for Amherst College alumni and their families. 

Georgiou left his post at the International Monetary Fund after two decades to become Greece's top statistician in 2010. He overhauled the way the office approached statistics to fall more in line with European Union laws. During that process, he revealed that the economic condition of Greece was far more dire than originally thought.

The revelation led to a government shakeup in Greece and forced the country to accept harsher terms for its second bailout. For Georgiou, it meant a slew of criminal charges. Officials said he overestimated the deficit figure, and charged him with "undermining the national interest," according to POLITICO. 

Georgiou stepped down amid the controversy in 2015 and left Greece. He now lives in Maryland.

Investigators and prosecutors assigned to Georgiou's case have found he did not commit a crime, according to the Wall Street Journal. And the statistics his office developed are still in use, he said.

"It just does not make sense that everybody's using these numbers: the EU, the IMF, the Greek government," Georgiou said. "And yet they're being challenged at the highest level of the Greek judiciary."

And the trials continue, which Georgiou said have had a negative impact on his family. 

"The feeling I have is that every day, the worst-case scenario comes. And it's every single day. I wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night and think about this. It's a huge pressure on me and my family. It has taken a great toll on us," Georgiou said. 

Physical danger

Georgiou has not returned to Greece since he fled in August 2015, though he would like to return in the future. For now, his lawyer represents him in legal proceedings in the country. Georgiou said there was a time where he was in physical danger in Greece, and could have been "potentially taken out by extremist groups or disgruntled people."

"People are being told, 'There's the person that destroyed Greece,'" Georgiou said. 

Truman and Woglom are part of a group of people connected to Amherst College who are providing support to Georgiou. That includes pro bono legal advice and a defense fund, among other means. 

"One of the many reasons why any of us have gotten involved in this case has been the concern of extradition," Truman said. 

The group is working to build a case to convince the U.S. State Department not to extradite Georgiou, should the situation arise. 

"This is a story about Greece. But it's also a story about statistics everywhere," Truman said.

Georgiou agreed with that sentiment, calling for safeguards and protections for statisticians in other countries. 

"Official statisticians everywhere in the world are facing the same pressures because they basically construct the picture of reality," Georgiou said. "And people who have power, or want to have power, want to control that version of reality."

He mentioned the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and the controversial 1937 Soviet Census — which was conducted after delays and showed lower population figures than anticipated — as examples of officials using "statistical data in an inappropriate manner." 

"There are problems everywhere. There are no angels. You have to keep fighting in this area," Georgiou said. "There have to be the appropriate institutional safeguards … in order to protect institutions for the difficult times that may arise."