Greece's Varoufakis admits to taping Eurogroup meeting

By George Georgiopoulos

By George Georgiopoulos

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis on Sunday admitted he had recorded a euro zone finance ministers meeting and criticised media for reporting "lies and innuendos" on what transpired at that April 24 Eurogroup gathering.

The outspoken minister told the New York Times Magazine last week he had taped the confidential meeting in Riga, drawing criticism that he was undermining Greece's efforts to secure aid from lenders.

"In the absence of minutes, I often record my interventions and responses on my mobile phone, especially when I ad lib them," Varoufakis said in his blog and to Britain's BBC, adding that he used the recordings to help prepare briefings for the Greek cabinet.

"I did the same in the Riga Eurogroup meeting and, afterwards, back in Athens, used that recording to work on my brief to my colleagues," he wrote.

Since assuming his post in January, Varoufakis has annoyed many euro zone colleagues due to his brash style and sharp-tongued barbs against creditors at a time when Greece needs their help to avert bankruptcy.

Eurogroup rules do not explicitly prohibit participants from recording talks as long as the contents are kept confidential.

But the disclosure prompted howls of disbelief from Greek media and the opposition who said that secretly recording his peers might undercut Greece's efforts to build alliances.

A columnist for Greek newspaper Eleftheros Typos wrote: "We all should care that the country's finance minister, at a most crucial moment, states without shame that he secretly recorded all dialogues and discussions at the last Eurogroup in Riga, which was his Waterloo."

Observers of the meeting in the Latvian capital said he appeared isolated and noted that he did not attend a finance ministers' dinner in the evening. Varoufakis said media reports that fellow ministers had called him a "time waster", "gambler" and "amateur" were untrue.

Varoufakis said he had not leaked the recordings and had fully respected the meeting's confidentiality, even when provoked by the media.

"I stood firm against the torrent of lies that flowed for weeks like an out of control sewer. I desisted all provocation and refused to divulge anything of what was said in the meeting," he said in his blog.

He called for minutes to be taken at important meetings.

"Perhaps it is time we became a little more sceptical about the journalism we rely upon as citizens. And perhaps we should query European institutions in which decisions of monumental importance are made, on behalf of Europe's citizenry, but in which minutes are neither taken or published."

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)