Greek Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras, who said he wants mandatory jail terms for tax cheats who now face only fines and suspended sentences, is reportedly considering a plan to house them in new special jails for those convicted of serious financial crimes.
The Ministries of Finance and Justice proposals would include pre-trial detainment for those who are charged with trying to evade taxes detected by audits.
That comes as Greece’s international lenders, the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) have been pressuring the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to catch tax cheats or face more austerity measures.
Tax evaders owe the country some $70 billion although the Troika said as much as 80 percent of the debt could be uncollectible because businesses have gone bankrupt and cases have lingered in court as long as 10 years.
Apart from the Troika, the EU’s Task Force chief on Greece, Horst Reichenbach , has been squeezing the government because it has repeatedly failed in its promises to gain revenues from tax evaders. There have been well-publicized crackdowns but not a single major tax cheat has been convicted or imprisoned as the government still hasn’t checked a list of 2,062 Greeks with $1.95 billion in secret Swiss banks accounts for tax evasion.
The government said its new plan would close loopholes that have allowed tax cheats to avoid paying taxes legally, as well as go after those who do so unlawfully are frequently get away with it. Tax evasion continues to be rampant in Greece despite the country’s crushing economic crisis and as the government has instead put repeated waves of pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions on workers, pensioners and the poor who have to pay.
The news agency Capital reported that the need for new jails results from overcrowding in current prisons and that the government would seek private funding as well as try to find monies in its state budget although there have been deep cuts in other sectors, including schools and hospitals.