Monday

17th Jan 2022

Greek finance officials among suspected tax evaders

Greek magazine Hot Doc has published the names of 2,059 suspected tax evaders in a move likely to stoke social tension.

The roll call of people who held accounts at the HSBC bank in Geneva includes Stavros Papastavros, an aide to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, and the wife of Georgios Voulgarakis, Samaras' former minister of culture and public order, as well as officials in the finance ministry, businessmen, doctors, housewives, lawyers, pensioners and students.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Vaxevanis: 'I am a journalist and I did my job' (Photo: John D. Carnessiotis, Athens, Greece)

Hot Doc redacted the amounts of money held in the accounts, but said some of them contained as much as €500 million.

The journal's editor, Costas Vaxevanis, was briefly arrested after it went out on Saturday (27 October).

He is to face misdemeanour charges on violating privacy laws in court on Monday.

"I only did my job. I am a journalist and I did my job," he said in a video statement sent to Reuters.

"The important thing is that a group of people - when Greece is starving - make a profit ... Tomorrow in parliament they will vote to cut €100-200 in pay for the Greek civil servant, for the Greek worker while at the same time most of the 2,000 people on the list appear to be evading tax by secretly sending money to Switzerland," he added.

Hot Doc said it got the list on a USB stick from an anonymous whistleblower.

It originated in 2007 when an HSBC staff member stole data on 24,000 customers and fled to France.

The then French finance minister, Christine Lagarde, who now runs the International Monetary Fund, passed the Greek names to Athens in 2010, lending it the name "the Lagarde list."

The data later went missing, prompting conspiracy theories which led to a parliamentary enquiry.

Former finance minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou told the probe earlier this month that the net worth of the list is €1.5 billion.

He added that Greek tax police did nothing about it because "they probably got scared. They looked at the names on the list and saw it was full of important people from business and publishing and decided not to go ahead without clear political instructions and cover."

For its part, the Greek government has declined to speak out on the Hot Doc revelation.

But Voulgarakis - one of the high-level names implicated in the article - denied having offshore accounts.

The publication is likely to stoke tension at a time when Greek leaders look to cut another €13.5 billion to meet bailout demands.

"Unfortunately, justice has been quick to move against those who reveal, while showing sluggishness against those who conceal, who lost, forgot, didn't see and didn't hear," the country's left-wing opposition party, Syriza, said in a statement.

A study by the University of Chicago in June estimated that Greece loses €28 billion a year in tax evasion.

Some of its wealthiest citizens and institutions - shipowners and the Greek Ortodox church - are exempt from tax by law.

Greek orthodox head defends Church over tax scandals

Taxes in Greece continue to slip through state scrutiny as some corporations, wealthy Greek-ship owning families, and the Greek Orthodox Church are either exempt or use loopholes to hide millions of euros.

Greek parliament votes to probe ex-minister

Deputies in the Greek parliament early Friday voted to launch a parliamentary investigation into Greece’s former minister of finance Giorgos Papaconstantinou.

Covid variants put Schengen under pressure

The EU Commission also raised concerns about the proportionality of Belgium's ban on non-essential travel, for people wishing to leave the country.

News in Brief

  1. French parliament agrees stricter vaccine-pass system
  2. US speaks to energy firms about EU gas cut-off scenario
  3. Anti-vax protests held in the Netherlands, Hungary, Austria
  4. German MEP spends €690,000 on office renovation
  5. Microsoft identified destructive malware in Ukraine agencies
  6. Danish intelligence crisis deepens
  7. Hackers expose Polish military secrets
  8. Swedish soldiers might leave Sahel due to Russian fighters

Opinion

Europe must plot its own course on China

Given China's size and interconnectedness with Europe, a strategic policy of non-engagement hardly deserves the label "strategic".

Vietnam jails journalist critical of EU trade deal

A journalist who had demanded the EU postpone its trade deal with Vietnam until human rights improved has been sentenced to 15 years in jail. The EU Commission says it first needs to conduct a detailed analysis before responding.

Latest News

  1. James Kanter, Shada Islam are new editors at EUobserver
  2. The loopholes and low bar in Macron's push for a global tax
  3. No love for Russia in latest EU strategy
  4. New EU Parliament chief elected This WEEK
  5. Lead MEP now wants ETS opt-out for homes and private cars
  6. MEPs seek probe into EU commissioner over Bosnia
  7. EU's Borrell contradicts Germany on Russia gas pipeline
  8. It's time for a more geopolitical EU-Turkey cooperation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us