SYRIZA going after the rich Greek tax cheats

Image: Mona Chalabi/The Guardian

Image: Mona Chalabi/The Guardian

Greece’s government is widening its international hunt for tax evaders by investigating 80,000 Greeks it believes have at least €200,000 (£145,000) each in foreign bank accounts.

Targets include some of the country’s most prominent citizens, according to Panagiotis Nikoloudis, the new ­anticorruption chief under Syriza, the radical left-wing government party.

“This is where the money is, where serious crimes have been committed and confirmed,” Mr Nikoloudis told The Times, declaring that the “Lagarde list” of 2,000 alleged tax evaders given to the Greek government by the IMF in 2010 was symptomatic of far more widespread tax evasion.”

Nikoloudis told The Times that the original list of 2,000 tax evaders, the famous “Lagarde list“, which was compiled by the International Monetary Fund and handed to the Greek government in 2010, is just the tip of the iceberg.

“I’m not concerned about the so-called Lagarde list,” Nikoloudis said. “It’s just a footnote in this overriding bid to hunt down tax cheats. Most importantly, though, the money which the Greek state stands to rake in from that list, in connection to fines on undeclared incomes, is peanuts compared to what can be collected from this roster of 80,000 individuals.”

So far, Greek authorities have audited 4,500 individuals who are suspected of cheating on their taxes. The finance ministry hopes that by the end of June the Greek government may recover more than 3 billion euros in back taxes and fines.

Contrast this action of the SYRIZA government with the appalling indifference and complicity of the previous Greek governments with tax evasion and avoidance. For example, two days before the January general election, as conservatives looked doomed to a defeat, Kostas Vaxevanis, a journalist who caused uproar for exposing thousands of tax cheatsof the Lagarde list in 2012, got a late-night tip-off. The country’s financial crimes police, the SDOE, had begun shredding scores of documents linked to cases of corruption. What remained was stuffed in bin bags and discarded outside the bureau’s headquarters in Athens, in public view. These were the Greek government partners of the Troika – a merry bunch indeed.

Full story in The Times here

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