Dora bakoyianni with horst reichenbach, jorgo chatzimarkakis and regional development minister michalis chrysochoidis on the occasion of reichenbach’s inaugural visit in fall 2011. Image: w. Aswestopoulos
Tax evading deputies: chronicle of a political farce
"Capital flight, that is, the fact that the rich can move their money across the country with impunity and the poorer have to foot the bill, destroys the cohesion of society. Greece cannot wait for the eu to make any rules in this case. I agree with mrs. Merkel on this one. Greece must immediately conclude bilateral agreements with the countries in which money is deposited past the treasury", martin schulz, president of the european parliament, said to telepolis during his visit to athens, highlighting one of the country’s main problems.
Martin schulz last tuesday in the office of the eu parliament in athens. Image: w. Aswestopoulos
Call to the citizens: "bring all your money to greek banks!"
Among the greek politicians responsible for the country’s bailout, of all people, this truism does not seem to have gotten around everywhere. On 21.2.In 2012, prosecutor panagiotis nikoloudis, chairman of the office for combating money laundering, proudly mentioned in parliament: "when i checked what we call political persons, i found out that a deputy or a member of parliament had moved one million euros abroad in the middle of the dramatic may 2011. In percentage terms, that’s not much with 300 parliamentarians. This is one of 300."
The prosecutor did not want to see any money laundering or other criminal activities at that time. Immediately, the search began in the media and among members of parliament as to who might be the ubeltater. It sticks out that just someone from the group of politicians, who otherwise never get tired of asking their own burgers and foreign investors to invest money in greek banks, has moved a large sum of money abroad. The fact that nikoloudis actually intended to prove how little black money there is in politics with his ill-fated statement was not noticed by anyone.
Finance minister evangelos venizelos plays an opaque game. Image: w. Aswestopoulos
I have another list ..
The longer the search went on, the more details about politicians fleeing money came to light. Finance minister evangelos venizelos tried to appease the excited public. He said his ministry has a list of forty parliamentarians who in 2011 each paid sums of more than 100.000 euros had transferred abroad. He has similar lists for 2009 and 2010, the minister added. "However, until i have spoken to each of them to check whether the transfer may have been related to health reasons, i will not mention any names", he declared.
As a result, the greek public has experienced deja vu. Because venizelos also waved around a list for months on the ie of another greek state bankruptcy factor, the massive tax and duty evasion by rich greeks. Even then he could not or would not "for data protection reasons" not naming names. When he finally named them and published a corresponding list, it was poor at best.
It was striking that none of the greek journalists thought to ask the finance minister why he came up with the idea of wagging the corresponding list just at this time. To expect that the review of the records from 2009 to 2011 should have been done long ago, would be utopian in hellas. Finally, a few weeks ago, evangelos mytilinaios, a businessman, became the media’s "benefactor of the country" who, on closer inspection, is rather a notorious nassauer.
Mytilinaios owes the parastatal dei – public power company almost 100 million euros, but is not on any list. When turkey recently cut the natural gas pipeline to greece for its own use in connection with a cold wave, mytilinaios stepped in and donated a shipload of liquefied natural gas worth 35 million euros to the state-owned gas company, which he naturally took back after the supply bottleneck was resolved.
However, international journalists postulate that there may be other reasons for the selective blotting of debtors and delinquents in greece. The financial times suspected that the shrewd venizelos could use the list to keep austerity critics in check in the future. The ftd apparently overlooked the fact that venizelos, who is both deputy prime minister and finance minister, is also seeking the party presidency and the succession to former prime minister giorgos papandreou. In greece, hardly any journal had dared to make such an amption. It is not for nothing that the state is ranked 71st in the international list of press freedom.
Have you perhaps forgotten a million euros?
With regard to the capital flight of rich greeks discussed throughout europe, venizelos appeased: "of the 65 billion euros withdrawn from accounts, only 16 billion went abroad. The rest is hidden in love boxes and apartments." the resulting journalistic research by the greek press focused on politicians. These, like journalists, prosecutors and judges, are legally obliged to disclose all existing assets. The obligation to declare exists also beyond the expiration of the term of office.
"Pothen esxes" heibt the rule, which means as much as: "where did you get it". In fact, the declarations were always limited to the "esxes", that is, the possession. Nevertheless some spur noses became fundig. Spilios livanos, a nea dimokratia deputy elected in 2009, simply had the figure of 980.Misappropriated thousands of euros that were abroad in the 2008 and 2010 declarations. At least here the judiciary reacted quickly. Livanos now has to justify to the prosecutor why he could simply forget so much money. However, he was not the capital flight he was looking for. The oblivious politician swore stone and soul that he could not be meant on the basis of the data presented by nikoloudis.
Dora bakoyianni in december 2011 during a pro-austerity speech. Image: w. Aswestopoulos
Cross-factional cleanup movement
The rest of the parliamentarians have had too much excitement about the disappearance of the million-dollar transfer. In unusual unity, ninety parliamentarians across party lines came together to demand by bill that privacy rules such as banking and tax secrecy no longer apply to greek politicians.
On 25. February dora bakoyianni, a fierce advocate of austerity and leader of the democratic alliance party, angrily demanded in parliament that the mp finally be named or, better yet, come out herself. Since the outbreak of the national financial crisis in 2009, dora bakoyianni has been trying to make a name for herself as an austerity advocate. It will not mude to brand the political system in place since 1974, the end of the military junta, as the main culprit of the dilemma. Bakoyianni, ex-burgermeister of athens and herself scion of a political dynasty, served as aubenminister under kostas karamanlis until 2009. Because of her numerous stays abroad, she does not want to have noticed that especially the last years of karamanlis’ reign have ruined the country.
Oh dear! The money comes from my family
Embarrassed, she had to confess three days later: "my husband, isidoros kouvelos, as an independent shipping entrepreneur, transferred the money abroad." however, it was a million dollars, not euros, and the transfer took place in march 2011, not may, she added. With this, she wanted to make clear that she could not, to the best of her knowledge, suspect that nikoloudis could have meant her husband.
"I found out only today on the phone from the chairman of the economic committee, vangelis argyris, that my husband was meant", she apologized additionally for her ignorance for days and went on the offensive. She took legal action against prosecutor nikoloudis and requested disciplinary proceedings. The lady feels slandered. Nikoloudis’ future will now be decided by committees. He himself tried to deny that he had never meant a politician, he said at every opportunity since the uncovering of the million-dollar transfer.
According to kouvelos, the money transferred came from the sale of shares that bakoyianni’s husband had deposited in new york. The shipowner has asked for proof of the transfer. The reason given by kouvelos for the subsequent transfer abroad was that he wanted to buy a ship with the money.
So far, there is no evidence of either the sale of shares or the proposed purchase of the ship. Twenty days now remain for the man to provide this evidence. Kouvelos felt so stressed that he went to the onassis clinic in athens because of a heart attack and was admitted as an inpatient. Medical communiques report a "stable, not life-threatening condition". As soon as he is out of bed, he will be allowed to see the prosecutor. Because kouvelos not only forgot to declare the transactions, contrary to the legal obligation, according to available information, money appears in his accounts, the origin of which is still unclear. The sworn auditors do not like the fact that the account sums of the entrepreneur seem to contradict all mathematical laws of addition.
The compromised ex-minister bakoyianni cannot find anything unethical in his transactions. Parliamentary president filippos petsalnikos took the council’s slogan as an opportunity to put the bill of the ninety transparency-conscious parliamentarians on ice.
Last thursday, he wrote a letter to norbert lammert, the president of the german parliament, who last week had demanded more solidarity from greek politicians fleeing from capital and asked for an explanation of the affair: "investigations have so far failed to reveal any greek parliamentarian who has transferred a large sum of money abroad." the fact that he denied his party colleague venizelos did not bother anyone. The matter is closed for greek politics. In the next few weeks, the domestic press will be chasing a new sow through the village, and the international media will simply forget about the ie.
Biting commentators, however, point out that once the cunning odysseus made the cyclops call polyphemus: "no one has blinded me." nevertheless, the son of the sea god poseidon was blind, because the homeric hero had gouged out his eye. Ulysses had merely made the giant believe that his name was "no one" be.