Eurozone chief Jean-Claude Juncker has castigated wealthy Greeks and those who hide their income in secret bank deposits outside the country and being unfaithful to their country at a time when many Greeks are suffering big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions as the government tries to keep the economy from collapsing.
With reports that well-to-do Greeks are squirreling money away in Switzerland, Luxeumbourg, Lichtenstein and elsewhere, Juncker, in remarks to the European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, called them “unpatriotic.”
Greece’s international lenders, the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) are also pressing the Greek government to clamp down on corruption and tax cheats and Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras wants mandatory jail time for those convicted of deliberately evading taxes.
The Greek Parliament is set to vote on whether to conduct a deeper investigation into a list of 2,062 Greeks with $1.95 billion in deposits in the Geneva, Switzerland branch of HSBC Bank even as the government is imposing yet another round of big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed benefits on workers, pensioners and the poor while tax cheats who owe $70 billion are largely escaping prosecution.
“I wholeheartedly encourage the efforts of the Greek government to prevent the flight of capital abroad, to London and Frankfurt – at a time when the Germans are acting as if this is not an issue – to Amsterdam and to Luxembourg,” Juncker said.
He added that, “Governments have to cooperate in the best possible way to help the Greek government uncover this unpatriotic stance of certain Greek millionaires and billionaires. We are not here to take advantage of the austerity policies being implemented in certain member states.”
Juncker also blasted “Anglo-Saxon futurologists” who had predicted that Greece would leave the euro, prompting the single currency’s collapse. He said Samaras’ government has made great strides to keep Greece in the Eurozone and took a shot at “philosophers of the north” he said didn’t appreciate Greece.
“For me, the EU and the Eurozone would be incomplete without Greece,” he said. “We have become arrogant, we do not recognize history. We do not like those who are not like us, we ignore all that the Republic of Greece and Greeks have offered Europe. I will support this country until the end. I am a friend of the Greeks.”
It’s also been reported that Greek officials some 54,000 citizens have accounts in foreign banks worth $19.5 billion. The Athens newspaper Ethnos said that there are now six lists the government knows about and preliminary findings indicate that more than 31,000 taxpayers are being examined for secreting away, although it wasn’t reported whether taxes had been paid on any of it.
It’s not unlawful for Greeks to have deposits abroad as long as taxes are paid. The newspaper said that there are 5,200 Greeks said to be in what the government calls a zone of high-likelihood of tax evasion. According to Ethnos, there is suspicion that 4,500 Greeks with deposits in Luxembourg and Lichtenstein haven’t paid taxes and Greek authorities have the names in their hands but haven’t revealed them.
The newspaper said the Lichtenstein list was known in 2007 but was ignored by the administration of then-Prime Minister and former New Democracy Conservative leader Costas Karamanlis, who had vowed zero tolerance on corruption but whose administration was tarred with it.
Besides bank deposits, the newspaper said investigators are probing 100 Greeks for tax evasion who were found to have expensive boats docked in The Netherlands who hadn’t reported them on their tax forms, along with 600 others who bought expensive properties in London.