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Greek statistician is in trouble for . . . telling the truth!

Paul Alper points us to this news article by Catherine Rampell, which tells this story:

Georgiou is not a mobster. He’s not a hit man or a spy. He’s a statistician. And the sin at the heart of his supposed crimes was publishing correct budget numbers.

The government has brought a relentless series of criminal prosecutions against him. His countrymen have sought their own vengeance by hacking his emails, dragging him into court, even threatening his life. His lawyers in Greece are now preparing for his latest trial, which begins this month . . .

Politicians accused him of being a “Trojan horse” for international interests that wanted to place Greece under “foreign occupation.” It didn’t matter that his numbers were repeatedly validated by outside experts. Or that the deficit his agency calculated precisely matched the net amount Greece borrowed from capital markets in 2009.

The government prosecuted, cleared and re-prosecuted him anyway, for causing “extraordinary damage” to the Greek state and for “violation of duty.” In one case, he was given a suspended prison sentence of two years. Two criminal investigations remain open.

I’m reminded of this story, The Commissar for Traffic Presents the Latest Five-Year Plan. There sometimes seem to be incentives to give inaccurate forecasts that tell people what they want to hear.

Getting back to the Greek story, Alper writes:

Consider yourself personally lucky—Wansink, Brooks, Bem, etc.—that you don’t live in Greece because:

In layman’s terms, a court said he made statements that were true but that hurt someone’s reputation. (Yes, this is an actual crime in Greece.) If his appeal fails, he’ll be forced to pay and publicly apologize to his predecessor. This means the person who restored the credibility of Greek statistics will have to apologize to a person who had been fudging the data.

Wow. I guess whistleblowers have it hard there too.


  1. Matt Skaggs says:

    Alas, everything is paywalled, nothing to help with my pandemic fatigue.

  2. gec says:

    NB: This is a comment about the “Commissar for Traffic” story, rather than the harrowing Greek statistician story.

    The end of the “Commissar” article describes a tension between getting the right answer and using conventional methods, and I think this is important. I also think it is an instance of the more general issue that a good model needs to balance predictive accuracy with communicability.

    Normally, we would say it’s a balance between “fit” and “complexity”, and this would be quantified using an information criterion or Bayes factor or cross-validation metric. But I think “communicability” better captures the dimensions of complexity that are relevant in both applied and theoretical modeling. In a sense, this is a form of algorithmic complexity, but instead of being defined in a formal language, it is in the natural language of a domain.

    A model that adheres to convention is easier to communicate. Why can this be a good thing? Because it helps someone understand *why* the model makes the predictions it does, it reveals the causal mechanisms that the model is supposed to represent. This also makes it easier to figure out why it makes wrong predictions, which might even mitigate against a desire for perfect “fit”.

    Of course, consumers of modeling need to be able to learn too, such that when conventional methods really can’t deliver, they can add new words to their language. Another reason why I like the term “communicability”: communication is a two-way street (to bring it back to the traffic example).

  3. Z says:

    >Politicians accused him of being a “Trojan horse”

    I’ll defer to the Greeks on this one, they should know

  4. MP says:

    Article 362 has to be read together with Article 366 of the Greek Criminal Code. If he is reporting fact, as CLEARLY stated in 366, then the acts of 362 cannot be punished.
    This is terrible, to just read 362 without a reference to the “General Provisions” of the chapter.

    • Andrew says:


      It could well be that when all is said and done the courts will decide that there was no case against Georgiou. In the meantime, though, it’s horrible that he’s been repeatedly prosecuted for the crime of telling the truth.

  5. Howard Edwards says:

    “There sometimes seem to be incentives to give inaccurate forecasts that tell people what they want to hear.”

    Anyone remember Sharpiegate?

  6. Vladimir G. Ivanovic says:

    The statistics & economic community should support this fellow. (I am not a member of either community.)

  7. Robert Goldman says:

    This is indeed horrible. Is any professional organization putting together a petition drive about this?

  8. Eric de Souza says:

    Several professional associations and international organisations have protested against what has been rightly called the persecution of Georgiou. Here is a link to a recent statement by ASA. At the end of the statement there are various links. The most detailed one describing the background and history of the affair is :
    The link to ASA’s statement is:

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