Greece With List of 400 London Buyers



Greek banker Lavrentis Lavrentidias was ready to spend $100 million on a London house before being caught up in a financial scandal at his bank

With Greek prosecutors already scouring a list of 33 politicians to determine how they obtained their wealth, the government now is probing names on another list – this one of some 400 Greeks who’ve bought luxury homes in London, trying to determine if they are laundering money or evading taxes by putting their wealth into real estate.

The New York Times reported that many of the homes being bought were in the range of about 1.88 million euros, or $2.41 million, and that the list – which is being kept secret by the government after the list of politicians being investigated was leaked to the press – includes prominent businessmen, bankers, shipping tycoons and professional athletes.

At the request of the Greek government, British financial authorities recently turned over the names of Greeks who have bought and sold London properties since 2009.  “These people have money and they are known — but it is not clear yet if they have violated any laws,” said Haris Theoharis, an official in the Greek Finance Ministry.

Tax investigators have been examining the list to see whether there is any overlap between those who bought London properties and those already identified as being tax cheats.

The Swiss Banking Association recently refused to release the names of wealthy Greeks keeping money in that country, and the Times said many wealthy Greeks are choosing other methods to ferret their riches out of the country, including to Singapore, offshore accounts or even the country of Georgia.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, under pressure from international lenders, is about to impose another $14.6 billion in pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions but – as did previous governments – has failed to make a dent in collecting some $70 billion in monies owed by tax cheats.

Studies have shown that the country may be forgoing as much as 30 billion euros ($38.57 billion) a year in uncollected taxes, with a significant portion of that amount having been shipped out of the country as the affluent seek shelter from Greece’s financial storm, the newspaper noted.

What got the attention of the government – and even uber-wealthy Londonites – was that Lavrentis Lavrentiadis, a Greek banker now under investigation for alleged financial wrongdoing – was looking last year to spend as much as $100 million, or 77.7 million euros, on a London home, according to the Times.

The Greek Council of Appeals Court Judges in April barred him from leaving the country, deeming him a flight risk, as authorities look into 700 million euros ($900 million) in questionable loans made by Proton Bank, in which he is the main shareholder.

The government, suspecting that Lavrentiadis may have moved money out of the country, is now investigating his activities to determine whether he engaged in fraud and money laundering. He has denied the accusations.

The Times said that London, long a magnet for foreign real estate investors, has become a special focus for Greek officials trying to track down money taken from the country. “Greeks are panicking,” Sandy Triantopoulou-von Croy of EPPC, a real estate firm in London that does a lot of work with Greek clients, told the paper. “They just do not know what to do with their money.”

Many of the recent buyers hail from Greece’s professional classes, including lawyers, doctors, accountants and midlevel bankers who are paying $484,000-$808,000 for modest apartments in the United Kingdom’s capital city. That is 376-628,000 euros. Theoharis said that London properties represented only a small portion of the billions Greeks had shipped out of their country since 2009.

In 2011, according to government figures, Greeks sent 6 billion euros ($7.71 billion) to foreign bank accounts and that in the first half of 2012 that figure had already reached 5 billion euros, or $6.42 billion.

Lavrentiadis was not the only bank chief to invest in London real estate. Theodoros Pantalakis, a former chief executive of the failed Agricultural Bank of Greece that had to be privatized because of bad loans – including to Samaras’ New Democracy party and one of his coalition partners, the PASOK Socialists – transferred 8 million euros ($10.26 million) abroad to buy property in London.

Pantalakis said he reported the transaction and did nothing wrong, but even the specter of rich Greeks cavorting around the world with their wealth while their country is going under has rankled Greeks who feel it is injustice that they are suffering and sacrificing while the country’s politicians and elite are prospering.

Dora Bakoyianni, a Member of Parliament from Samaras’ New Democracy party, asked colleagues to lift her parliamentary immunity so she said that “no doubts linger” as she attempts to clear her name and that of her husband, who is facing felony charges over the deposit of $1 million in a foreign bank account and not declaring it.

 

 

 

 


4 COMMENTS

  1. The money is in Singapore and there will be no way of knowing the exact amount but it is possible to trace this hidden wealth and the ministry of economy knows how to do it but they don’t wont because some high ranking politicians and officials are among these crooked wealthy Greeks…  

  2. While I think corruption at higher levels also needs to be addressed I think care has to be taken not to lump in every rich Greek as crooked (which only encourages the sort of class warfare extremists want). The reality is corruption in Greece doesn’t only exist among the rich. It also exists among the middle class and poor too. Scapegoating the elite will not solve our country’s problems. It will only make them worse because it will push us into the hands of extremists.. (both on left and right)

  3. This corruption learned behaviour, its how to get ahead, and its a crippling problem for Greece. Greece for decades has lived beyond its means. The poor and middle class play the game, but have no choice unless they wan’t to pay more to visit a doctor for example, its an accepted system in society where the spoils filter down from those at the top, related by employment, family etc. Sure don’t lump every rich Greek as guilty, but the goal is wealth and power and it starts from the top down, all over the world. Greece can never escape this crippling situation with such a corrupted government and the large corporations, wealthy tycoons and bankers paying the bribes. This is why its been years now of avoiding the obvious, and focusing on lower and middle class pension and wage cuts and tax increases to meet ever increasing debt, and getting nowhere. This money will never be enough to meet the debts and no longer hides to real wealth that is being hoarded and hidden the rich. The rich and corrupt members of government have indemnity from prosecution, laws invented and passed by themselves, as long as they remain in government, this is why we have these family dynasties and this kleptocracy, the same old names and parties elected to power, which flows all the way down through Greek society, public services etc. Thats it, in Greece and all over the world to different extents.

  4. This corruption learned behaviour, its how to get ahead, and its a crippling problem for Greece. Greece for decades has lived beyond its means. The poor and middle class play the game, but have no choice unless they wan’t to pay more to visit a doctor for example, its an accepted system in society where the spoils filter down from those at the top, related by employment, family etc. Sure don’t lump every rich Greek as guilty, but the goal is wealth and power and it starts from the top down, all over the world. Greece can never escape this crippling situation with such a corrupted government and the large corporations, wealthy tycoons and bankers paying the bribes. This is why its been years now of avoiding the obvious, and focusing on lower and middle class pension and wage cuts and tax increases to meet ever increasing debt, and getting nowhere. This money will never be enough to meet the debts and no longer hides to real wealth that is being hoarded and hidden the rich. The rich and corrupt members of government have indemnity from prosecution, laws invented and passed by themselves, as long as they remain in government, this is why we have these family dynasties and this kleptocracy, the same old names and parties elected to power, which flows all the way down through Greek society, public services etc. Thats it, in Greece and all over the world to different extents.