Ho-hum, another day in Greece, another arrest. A hundred here and a hundred there and pretty soon you’re talking real numbers. A quick calculation shows that at this rate, the government will have arrested every person in the country by the end of next year, but who’s counting? Anyone who hasn’t pledged allegiance to the rich and powerful and political leaders will be let go, of course.
For all you Game of Thrones fans, put down the clicker and turn to Greek TV because there’s more intrigue, sex, violence, double-crossing, corruption, bribery, graft, scandal, double-dealing, backstabbing, treachery, betrayal and just pure entertainment and fun than you can find anywhere else.
In the last month alone, the Greek government, picking and choosing its suspects to avoid anyone too friendly or too connected to the destructive ruling parties of the New Democracy Uber-Capitalists of Prime Minister Antonis “Bean Counter” Samaras and his partner, PASOK Anti-Socialist non-leader Evangelos Venizelos – who’s so slippery he could slide off sandpaper – have overseen the rounding up of a bevy of alleged criminals,
You have to say alleged even though there’s so much sleaze in Greece that it reminds you of those old westerns where a vigilante group grabs some bad guy and wants to string him up only to be told by the sheriff that nothing’s been proven yet. “Hell, we all know he did it!” is what he heard in return.
After former transport minister Michalis Liapis, an obsequious little lickspittle, was found using fake plates on his SUV to avoid paying a road tax he had insisted others pay, Samaras dumped him from the party and vowed there would be no leniency for wrongdoers.
Good call on Liapis, who now is being investigated for misusing European Union subsidies and hiding the worth of his holiday home to avoid paying taxes on that too, so let’s see how the flour sifts down on this one. And whether, if guilty, he sees any jail time or gets another suspended sentence, the favorite tool of judges for the politically-anointed.
But even as 25 people, including the former chairman, were being arrested for a growing scandal at the failed state-owned Hellenic Postbank, Samaras looked the other way as one of his lawmakers, Kostas Kontogeorgos, was allowed to stay in the party and in Parliament despite being investigated for breach of duty for bad loans his municipality guaranteed.
No one knows where the money really went although that taxpayers are repaying the loan so do the math. Samaras did and here’s what he came up with: his coalition has only a three-vote majority in the 300-member Parliament so ejecting Kontogeorgos would have left him vulnerable to being toppled. Score one for hypocrisy.
And almost in the same breath, one of those implicated in the Hellenic Postbank scandal of some 500 million euros – twice what New Democracy and PASOK owe banks in bad loans and aren’t paying either – was the head of the country’s bank stabilization fund, Anastasia Sakellariou.
Not only is she still in her seat, she’s being defended by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, a technocrat who’s suddenly getting doused with political taint, indefensible for someone who should know better. Even if he knows her and likes her, it’s up to the justice system to decide right from wrong, not political appointees.
REPORTEDLY ALLEGEDLY MAYBE PERHAPS
It didn’t happen on his watch so you have to give credit on another score for Samaras pushing the prosecution last year of former defense minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, who came close being prime minister himself some years ago before, thank Zeus, the fates intervened and saved Greece from a bigger crook than Andreas Papandreou, who did win. Alleged, of course.
The arrest of Tsochatzopoulos opened the floodgates for his procurement chief, Apostolos Kantas, to put the finger on other thieves in the ministry, with other witnesses alleging they included the former chiefs of staff of the army and navy, who put their country at risk for money. Allegedly, of course.
The holidays and New Year have been prime arresting time in Greece:
- The defense scandal netted at least 10
- The chief of the country’s biggest children’s hospital was charged with bribery or he wouldn’t approve a program for obese children, showing that indecency knows no bounds in Greece
- The former managing director of Skaramanga Shipyards, Sotiris Emmanouil, and an associate of Tsochatzopoulos, Yiannis Beltsios, were arrested for being part of a bad deal in which submarines apparently were ordered with screen doors
- The Postbank embarrassment
- Defunct Alter TV station owner Giorgos Kouris and his son were arrested on Jan. 14 for failing to pay 1.5 million euros to the state social security organization IKA two years after the station shut down after employees said he didn’t pay them
The only ones not arrested so far are two convicted terrorists who walked away from furloughs, Nikos Maziotis, a dangerous man indeed but apparently not enough for a council of idiots who gave him a vacation last June and he hasn’t been seen since. And Christodoulos Xeros from the notorious November 17 who disappeared on Jan. 6 after being let out on the promise to return to jail for the rest of his life instead of staying with a young girlfriend.
He was serving six life sentences for six assassinations, including five officials from the American Embassy in Athens, so that should have been the first clue that he and Maziotis should never have been allowed to see the light of freedom, even for a minute. We tried to contact the victims for a reaction but they’re still dead: no furlough from that.
There’s no end to this insanity in Greece though. Lavrentis Lavrentiadis, already in jail on charges of embezzlement from the Proton Bank where he was the major shareholder before bringing it down, is also being charged in the Postbank scandal. This guy has robbed more banks than Willie Sutton.
But why should anyone be surprised? Corruption, not soccer or gambling, is the national sport in Greece and just since the 2004 Olympics you’d fill more pages than War and Peace outlining the hundreds of people – non of them poor or politically-connected – who’ve committed or been accused of serious crimes in the country they profess to love but love to fleece even more.
In the meantime, we need Captain Renault to order the round-up the unusual suspects before they get away. It’s an arresting story.