Greece Legalizes Political Bank Robbery



Where's Al Capone when you need him to collect from people who won't pay?
Where’s Al Capone when you need him to collect from people who won’t pay?

The great American convict Willie Sutton said he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is.” And, of course, he was one-upped by Al Capone who said: “You can get much farther with a smile, a kind word and a gun than you can with a smile and a kind word.”

Neither had a better way to get money than Greek politicians who have invented a better scan than those Nigerians who send you an email under the name of one of your friends that says something like, “I’m in Zimbabwe and I lost my wallet and passport. If you could please send me $1,500 right away, plus money for a hamburger, I’d kindly repay you by Tuesday.”

The only one better says something like: “You’ve won $500,000 in the lottery. If you send us a $5,000 processing fee we can send you your winnings.” I’m always tempted to respond: “Deduct the $5,000 and send me the $495,000,” but I delete instead, knowing that somewhere, out there, another sheep is being fleeced and deserving it.

That’s the position Greeks are in. Under the law, political parties are allocated money from the public treasury based on the percentage of the vote they’ve won and how many seats they’ve taken in Parliament.

But wait, there’s more. They use this free money, which is supposed to pay their staffs and organizations – something which should be done the old-fashioned American way, by putting the arm on rich people through private donations and they repaying them with big political favors later – as collateral to get loans worth far more than what they’ve putting up.

And here’s the best part, (for them, not for you): They don’t have to repay them! How great is that! And I thought George Ballas, the Greek-American who invented the weed eater had one of the best ideas ever, next to glow-in-the-dark condoms.

You can’t make this up. The coalition government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy Capitalist leader, and his partner, the PASOK Anti-Socialists misled by Evangelos Venizelos, owe 250 million euros ($331.97) to banks, and used as a guarantee the combined 37 million ($49.9 million) in political slush funds they steal from taxpayers.

That’s math from the people whose ancient ancestors perfected it. The next time you want some free money from the bank, say $100,000 in a personal loan you have no chance of repaying, tell them you have a car worth $12,000, around the same 8-to-1 ratio deal New Democracy and PASOK got.

The ruling duo always have back-up plans to protect themselves and probably figuring out that someone might snoop around on the bank scam, they gave immunity to the bank officers who okayed the deal, so someone ask the SDOE financial crimes prosecutors to start checking secret Swiss bank accounts for their names.

LET’S PLAY POLITICAL PAYOFF!

Leandros Rakintzis, Greece’s independent Inspector-General of Public Administration, believes the financial crunch the two big parties face is proof that Greece’s political funding system is flawed.

In 2012, he told Reuters: “This is all about the exchange of favors. These parties cannot pay the debt so it’s a vicious circle in which they come to depend on the banks. It creates an interdependence of politicians and banks.”

Here’s how it works: banks give politicians free money and the government walks away from the debt because the banks get 50 billion euros ($67.43 billion) in recapitalization funds.

That’s siphoned from $325 billion in bailouts Greece got from international lenders that hasn’t made a dent in its $430 billion debt but enriched politicians, bankers and their friends instead of going to vital social services.

Let me figure this out because I wasn’t good in math: New Democracy and PASOK get eight times the money from banks they put up in phony collateral, but the banks get 200 times the money they gave the parties. How great is that!

It gets better (for them, not you.) Already flush with so much money they said they can withstand the 42 percent of bad loans customers can’t pay because of the big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions imposed by the government on the orders of the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB), Samaras and Venizelos lifted a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures.

That was put in place by …… Venizelos and PASOK when Venizelos served in a previous government as finance minister, during which he stiffed investors with 74 percent losses, including those in the Diaspora who were nearly wiped out by putting money into their homeland.

That also wiped out the Cypriot banks and forced the government into an onerous rescue deal with the Troika that is, guess what, requiring not only Greek-style austerity but let the government steal 47.5 percent of private bank accounts over 100,000 euros.

They wanted to take it from all bank accounts so if you’re in Greece, transfer all your money fast to Switzerland, Luxembourg, London, the United States or the Cayman Islands, bank havens for laundered money or legitimate capital government wants to get its hands on too.

LET’S PLAY HYPOCRISY!

So it’s curious why the government is going after the former heads of the failed state-owned Hellenic Postbank for giving out 500 million euros ($674.39 million) in bad loans, which prosecutors said was a scam almost as good as that PASOK and New Democracy came up with.

Two years ago, Costas Tsimaras, New Democracy’s General Manager, told Reuters the party was trying to repay its loans but couldn’t, and he said they should be restructured, which is code for not paying them back in full.

That’s the deal that many Greek households wanted when the government violated its contract with them by cutting their pay, but doesn’t want them to do the same to banks, which are essentially private ATM’s for politicians.

Samaras, in yet another broken promise, set aside a bill to give debt relief to households but is ready to ask the Troika to let Greece stiff them too.

“It will be very difficult for the parties to pay back the debt if there is no arrangement. Down the road, a political decision needs to be made to give parties the capacity to service their liabilities, some type of settlement on these loans,” Tsimaras said.

You can bet that political decision will be made because that’s the favored tactic of people like Samaras and Venizelos, who’ve never held real jobs, never missed a meal, never got a late notice from the electric company, never had to stand in line at a hospital, never had to scrounge through the glove compartment of their Mercedes looking for change to buy souvlaki or milk for a hungry child, and never had to worry about paying banks because banks are there to pay them.

Compared to these people, Willie Sutton and Al Capone weren’t the real criminals. Let’s sic on them those heartless dogs the banks hire at collection agencies who go after people who can’t pay their loans and hound them day and night with incessant phone calls.

If that doesn’t work, let’s try a smile, a kind word (or angry ones) but forget the gun because they have all the ammunition.