Nobody is above the law in Greece, except for politicians, the rich, athletes, celebrities, architects, tax evaders, engineers, lawyers, doctors, auto mechanics, fruit and vegetable vendors, street sellers, taxi drivers, truck drivers, hairdressers, organized crime, and everybody else who cheats their country and gets away with it. That pretty much leaves only the poor and suckers and people who have money taken out of their checks before they see them to pay the wages of sin. Make that sing.
While most Greeks – whose pay has been cut, taxes raised and pensions slashed by a government so desperate for cash in an economic crisis that it’s looking everywhere except at tax evaders – are suffering, some of Greece’s popular singers are crying poor mouth.
That includes so-called “dog singers” who can’t really sing or carry a note and sound more like dogs howling a lament – which makes them popular because their audience can’t tell the difference. These pseudo-singers, who could be hired as torturers at Guantanamo and paid to warble at terrorist suspects until a confession is obtained, have filed tax forms showing they made so little money – none at all in a few cases – that they had to pay only a minimal tax or none. Talk about singing the blues.
The biggest joke is that none of the esteemed tax inspectors in Greece, said to be among the biggest bribe solicitors in a country where tax evasion is costing $70 billion in lost revenues, didn’t raise an eyebrow when one of the most popular singers – Anna Vissi, who misrepresented Greece at the 2006 Eurovision contest, finishing ninth with the alleged song, Everything – said times are so tough she’s living on the street. It seems that way because she declared she has no property so that villa she’s in must be invisible, like that car in that bad James Bond movie, so maybe she still has everything while most Greeks have nothing.
Favoritism toward celebrities, athletes and alleged singers is not new in Greece, as people with clout can avoid compulsory military service, paying taxes, and are above the law, but a Finance Ministry report that shows these howlers who make a lot of money were easy to identify as cheats and give new credence to the belief that tax inspectors are on the take big-time.
How else could you explain looking at a tax statement from Elli Kokkinou, ranked the 27th most-favored female singer in Greece over the last 52 years and not blink when she claimed an income of $5,746 in 2008 and Zero – as in O – the next year? Poor girl, let’s begin a Concert for Kokkinou to help her return to the standard of living which she deserves, although a jail cell seems like better fittings for her kind, and to save space she can bunk in with Vissi and start learning the blues.
Ioannis Kotsiras, talented enough to appear with the incomparable Mikis Theodorakis at the Acropolis to perform classics from Axion Esti, similarly declared that by 2009 he was apparently broke, but maybe that’s because there’s no place for quality music in Greece, which has been overwhelmed with pop-crap and no longer appreciates the genius of people such as Maria Farantouri, who can hit notes the fake singers couldn’t reach with a ladder.
Peggy Zina, 37, who is a semi-dog singer, making her a poodle singer, is on the list of over-rated, under-reporters too, as she and her husband, businessman Yiorgos Lyras were among the most notorious tax evaders, according to the newspaper Proto Thema. Apparently she can still sing, “Agapo Ta Lefta,” (I Love Money) though.
All this chicanery was allowed when a has-been singer popular in the 1970’s, Tolis Voskopoulos, 70, was allowed to walk away from 5.5 million euros, a cool $7.11 million, in tax evasion with a suspended three-year sentence in 2011 after his lawyer successfully argued that since the aging crooner had spent all the money he had stolen from the government that he couldn’t really repay it now, could he? Maybe seizing his properties and cars would have helped but apparently there’s a shortage of Clarence Darrows among Greek prosecutors.
The singer’s lawyer told the Athens Court of First Instance that Voskopoulos had been unable to sell properties to pay his taxes as all his assets had been frozen but they would have looked good on a list of impounded properties for sale. The lawyer argued too that his client’s income had dwindled significantly over the years and comprised only royalties from his records and 3,500 euros ($4,523) per month from a rented property in Korydallos, near Piraeus.
That’s about 10 times the pension many elderly Greeks are now getting under a heartless government that has slashed their benefits, while cutting workers’ pay and raising taxes to subsidize the loss of revenues to the state from people like Voskopoulos and all the rest of the dregs who fancy themselves singers but wouldn’t be able to work at a second-rate joint anywhere else outside Greece. He tried the I’m-too-sick ploy many Greeks use when they are finally caught, appealing for leniency because he said his health had deteriorated after heart surgery but now, out of favor with the public, even Greek courts weren’t buying that bogus bit of business and said his claims were unjustifiable.
Some of these alleged singers should be jailed just for causing a public nuisance by opening their mouths to wail, but tax evasion isn’t a real crime Greece because almost every adult in a country of 11.3 million people who doesn’t have taxes taken out of their paychecks was a cheat. None of these singers will ever see the inside of a jail unless they pull a Johnny Cash and give a free concert to all the inmates who weren’t rich or famous enough to stay out of the hoosegow, but Greece should lock them up anyway and throw away the off-key.