Lost off the radar screen as Greece sinks toward economic oblivion because of generations of greed, corruption, mismanagement, tax evasion, incompetence, inefficiency and a bloated public sector full of so much deadwood you could feed every fireplace in Europe has been the role of the people who created the crisis and are prospering off it.
Many Greeks believe – correctly – that many of the country’s political leaders and rich elite, the filthy rich oligarchs who run the country and drink wine out of the skulls of the poor, don’t pay taxes and hide their money in secret bank accounts in Switzerland and offshore accounts where they can’t be taxed.
They’re right, of course, but there’s no way to prove it because the Swiss, who delight in hiding and laundering money from criminals, Nazis, crooks, and tax evaders of all stripes and countries, won’t reveal who is using their banks.
Greek politicians know that, of course, so they went through the transparent charade of asking the Swiss Bank Association to release the names of rich Greeks banking in Switzerland, knowing full well it would be refused, and it was. Now they can say, “Hey, we gave it a shot,” and laugh all the way to their Swiss banks, which are so secretive even James Bond used them in Casino Royale.
Greece is drowning in debt and about to impose another round of harsh austerity measures on workers, pensioners and the poor – not tax evaders – largely because alternating New Democracy Uber-Capitalist and PASOK Anti-Socialist governments packed public payrolls with hundreds of thousands of unneeded workers in return for votes, an unlawful practice in real democracies.
All that’s keeping the country’s economy afloat is welfare aid, a first-round rescue package of $152 billion from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB.) The last installment, of $38.8 billion, and a second bailout of $172 billion are on hold until the uneasy coalition government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras makes another $14.6 billion in cuts, and he’s looking everywhere for money except at tax evaders and his own kind.
It’s so bad that a member of the Troika, in negotiations last year with the Greek elite, snickered that, “If I could get everyone in this room to pay their taxes, I wouldn’t need to be here,” the Associated Press reported. If it weren’t true, it would be funny. Tax evaders have cost the country $70 billion and the bill grows by $15 billion a year – almost precisely the amount Samaras is going to take out of the hides of workers, pensioners and the poor, affecting the lazy with the decent combined in the poisonous porridge.
Former Prime Minister George Papandreou, who resigned last year after constant protests, strikes and riots against the austerity measures he imposed in 2010 on orders of the Troika, admitted recently that if the government had merely collected all the money it was due that there wouldn’t be a need for a bailout and it could go on spending like drunken sailors. Maybe he’ll teach that at Harvard, where he is fleeing to teach government this fall.
YES, MR. PRIME MINISTER!
The Finance Ministry last year produced a list of tax evaders showing no politicians because it included only those with known assets in Greece who weren’t paying, not people hiding their money in other countries while pleading with Greeks to keep their money in domestic banks and be idiots, uh, patriots. There was a brief public relations crackdown on the tax cheats, which brought exactly no major prosecutions and Samaras has replaced the head of the financial crimes squad, Yiannis Diotis, who had aggressively been pursuing tax cheats, with one of his buddies from his home area of Messenia, so you know that’s going into File 13.
Diotis had requested the opening of the bank accounts of two former ministers, two former MPs, and five sitting MPs, all of whom were suspected of money laundering, which is code in Greece for taking bribes. Nothing was done about it, the Athens News said.
Diotis had also told finance ministry authorities that there were 1,006 cases of tax-evasion of 300,000 euros or more and asked for 120 extra staff to go after them. None were hired and he was fired immediately after Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras was discussing with him the next moves in combating tax evasion, blindsiding Stournaras.
The list Greeks really need to see is one reportedly put together by the government but not released and believed to contain the names of 30 politicians including former ministers, current lawmakers, local authority officials and general secretaries at ministries allegedly being investigated for corruption and tax evasion.
Supreme Court Deputy Prosecutor Nikos Pantelis has asked financial crimes prosecutors Grigoris Peponis and Spyros Mouzakitis to find if it exists, but don’t expect Samaras’ buddy to help out. The financial crimes squad SDOE began looking into the financial dealings of some 500 politicians earlier this year and at the beginning of this month, it announced that it had frozen the assets of 121 suspected tax evaders as part of a separate investigation.
So it really comes down to this: who’s on the Dirty 30 list? It’s not really that hard for financial prosecutors to get it and release it, but the odds of that happening are the same as the Swiss giving up the names of all the crooks using their banks, including rich Greeks. But if there are current lawmakers you know that the government wants to quash this fast because politics, especially in Greece, is a self-preservation society and these guys take care of their own.
So instead of asking for the list, the Supreme Court should demand it and release it. The judges are in a surly mod now anyway with Samaras planning to cut their pay. As Al Capone said, “You can get more with a kind word and a gun that you can with a kind word alone.”