Former Greek finance minister George Papaconstantinou is appearing in court for the opening of a criminal trial against him on allegations he removed relatives' names from a list of Greeks holding Swiss bank accounts in HSBC.

Papaconstantinou, 53, denies charges that he doctored the document, known in Greece as the Lagarde List, to remove three of his relatives.

The former minister is charged with criminal counts of doctoring a document and of attempted breach of faith. The charges carry potentially hefty imprisonment penalties as they include the aggravating factor under Greek law of being offenses against the state.

Papaconstantinou was finance minister from late 2009 to mid 2011, when he switched to the environment ministry. It was under him that Greece signed its first international bailout.