The Greek government on Friday threatened to name and shame lawmakers accused of funnelling huge sums of money abroad in spite of a call to ordinary Greeks to return their savings to the country's cash-strapped banks.

Greeks have withdrawn some 65 billion euros (55.2 billion pounds) in bank savings since the onset of the debt crisis in 2009, stashing most of it at home or in safety deposit boxes fearing the country might have to ditch the currency and return to the drachma.

Controversy erupted this week when the head of the judiciary's money-laundering watchdog, prosecutor Panagiotis Nikoloudis, said a member of the Greek parliament sent 1 million euros to a Swiss bank in mid-2011.

Greek media, in a frenzy to identify the MP, have floated several names but no one has stepped forward.

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos did not identify the deputy, whose bank transfer did not necessarily break the law. But that was not the point, he told parliament on Friday.

There is indeed a difference between what is legal and what is proper, he said. There are politicians, or relatives of politicians, who each transferred more than 100,000 euros abroad in 2011.

These names will be ascertained within the day, and will be given to the parliament speaker. They will be called upon to explain.

The transfers were made despite the government assuring Greeks their savings are safe. The withdrawals have exacerbated a liquidity crisis that has left some banks dependent on central bank funding.

SCANDAL

I have repeatedly called recently for a national movement to repatriate deposits to Greek banks, Venizelos said. Let politicians and their relatives be at the forefront of this movement.

Sixteen billion of the 65 billion euros withdrawn has been sent abroad, much of it to Britain.

The scandal has added fuel to an unofficial election campaign that already appears to be under way ahead of parliamentary polls yet to be called but expected in April.

Fringe parties are set to make big gains at the expense of the two parties in government, buoyed by voter anger over the savage spending cuts and tax hikes demanded of Greece by its euro zone partners as the price of bailing it out.

A spokesman for the New Democracy party, which is in government with the PASOK Socialists, said the deputy behind the 1-million-euro transfer should resign.

Politicians today are not only requested to conform with the law. They must also set an example, said Yannis Michelakis.

This kind of behaviour sends the wrong message. Whoever it is must resign from parliament.

(Additional reporting by Tatiana Fragou and Dina Kyriakidou; Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Sophie Hares)