Greece’s coalition government, promising to go after tax cheats who have escaped prosecution for years, took a hit with the news that police have arrested a top official of the financial crimes squad (SDOE) on charges of graft.
SDOE is charged with investigating tax evasion among other issues of corruption. Greece’s tax inspectors have been dogged with criticism of being among the biggest bribe-takers in the country, taking payoffs to look the other way and let tax evaders escape prosecution.
The official, who was not named, was taken into custody following the testimony of two employees in the office of the Western Greece department in the city of Patra, the newspaper Kathimerini reported.
According to local media reports, a police sting operation was organized following a complaint filed by a businessman operating on the Ionian island of Lefkada who said that he was being blackmailed by two SDOE employees who had allegedly demanded 15,000 euros ($20,000) to write off his tax debt.
The two SDOE employees told interrogators that their superior was also involved in the extortion racket, while a search conducted by police officers on the high-ranking SDOE official’s residence unearthed 47,000 euros ($62,800) in cash.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has promised that after decades of letting tax cheats escape that he would make it a priority to prosecute them, but not a single major prosecution has been undertaken.