A small victory for press freedom in Greece’s struggle against its cleptocracy

A couple of hours ago, Kostas Vaxevanis, editor of HOT DOC, was acquitted by an Athenian court for having published the so-called Lagarde List. The charge was that he violated data protection legislation by publishing a list of more than two thousand names who had held a bank account with HSBC in Geneva. The not-guilty verdict was a great victory for those who value a free press in a country whose press freedom is severely tested, alongside with all facets of Greece’s social fabric, by a cleptocracy hanging desperately onto power, and in the context of the debilitating Depression which is Greece’s lot within the current Eurozone Crisis.

In his HOT DOC exposé, Vaxevanis had prefaced the list by stating quite categorically that the people mentioned on the list were innocent until proven guilty; that most of them, if not all, may have committed no act of tax evasion or corruption and that they had every right to hold an account with HSBC’s Geneva branch. So, why publish it?

The reason of course is that this was not just some list that was leaked to the magazine. It was a list that was sent, in 2010, to the Greek Minister of Finance at the time, Mr George Papakonstantinou, by the, then, French Minister of Finance, Ms Christine Lagarde – who now heads the IMF, one of the three constituent parts of the troika of lenders and inspectors that is currently fiscally waterboarding Greece, demanding of the Greek government the most savage cuts in pensions and welfare payments in the history of civilised society. Ms Lagarde’s move, to send that list to George Papakonstantinou, had a singular purpose: to help the Greek government with its background investigations and checks in tax evasion by Greece’s powers-that-be.

Such lists were sent by Ms Lagarde to both the German and the Spanish governments. According to various reports, the three governments (French, German and Spanish) put these lists to good use and managed to extract additional taxes from HSBC-Geneva account holders whose tax returns failed to square up to the balances in their Swiss bank account. Except of course the Greek government which sat on its hands, letting this opportunity go to waste.

The Greek public was oblivious to the existence of the Lagarde list until recently when a former Serious Tax Fraud Squad employee mentioned it in passing. At that point, Mr Papakonstantinou claimed that he passed the list on to the Head of the Serious Tax Fraud Squad, asking him to investigate. The latter denies this, saying that he was given an unofficial copy, on a USB stick, but was never instructed to investigate. To add to the debacle, Mr Papakonstantinou’s successor, Evangelos Venizelos (who now is the Leader of the, now decimated, PASOK party) claims that he never received the list from his predecessor but that a copy of the USB stick ended up on his desk. He also presented the inane argument that the list could not be acted upon because it constituted illegally solicited private data.

To cut a long story short, for a month now, the Lagarde list was the bone of contention in the Greek public debate. Two former finance ministers and two heads of the Serious Tax Fraud Squad were trying desperately to pass the buck amongst one another, a most disreputable and depressing spectacle in view of the fact that, at precisely the same time, the troika and the new Greek government were (and still are) negotiating misanthropic reductions in social benefits, pensions and wages (including the ending of health cover for the long term unemployed, and extracting income tax from those that the Greek state officially recognize to be below the poverty line). The Greek state, in short, was passing on the opportunity to extract many millions of evaded taxes by captains of industry, bankers etc. while squeezing blood out of the most vulnerable, helpless citizens.

In this context, when Kostas Vaxevanis (one of a handful of independently minded investigative journalists) published the list (after having removed the sums of money in each bank account), he dealt a major blow to the duplicity and hypocrisy of the Greek establishment. For starters, he dispelled the officials’ denials that the list existed; he destroyed their claims that it had been lost. Moreover, when the state prosecutor (who had been conspicuously idle and absent when the list, and its fate, were being discussed; never bothering to investigate its whereabouts and the officials’ role and responsibility in covering up the affair) moved within minutes of the list’s publication in HOT DOC to have Vaxevanis arrested, he proved beyond dispute that when the Greek state wants to move fast, it can. But never when such a ‘move’ puts in jeopardy the interests of the strong and powerful; of the cleptocracy that is, still, ruling Greece!

Vaxevanis’ acquittal is a rare ray of light in the dark reality of Greece’s press and mass media. Tax evasion is only one of the three tentacles with which Greece’s cleptocracy is preventing our social economy from breathing and standing on its feet again, with some pride and poise. The other two are: (A) a mostly unfree mass media, controlled with an iron fist by corrupt bankrupt bankers (who are rewarded with de-nationalised banks, rather than with… prosecution) and crooked developers (whose cozy relationship with government is legendary), and (B) a political class that, after the country collapsed in 2010, are now hiding behind Greece’s lenders, perpetuating their power by terrorising the electorate into accepting bailout and austerity terms&conditions which sink the country deeper into its Great Depression.

Kosta Vaxevanis’ acquittal is but a small victory in this long, repugnant war against common decency and humanity. It may be a shooting star in an endless, dark, winter night. But it is still worth celebrating. For while the cleptocrats care not one iota about moral authority, the rest of us may stiffen our tone, get a dose of courage, and lift our chins before returning to fight the good fight.

Below you can watch a related interview on the matter on RT. Later, I followed this up with a CNN interview for which I have not found a link yet.

68 Comments

  • I agree with your analysis and I am very happy that Vaxevanis was acquitted. Beyond this small victory, the damage to free speech is almost irreparable, because such prosecutions have a chilling effect on free speech. In other words, we should rejoice in this victory, but we have to bear in mind that this acquittal achieves very little in the general scheme of things, as you rightly point out. Let’s not forget that the public prosecutor at the trial was in favour of convicting Vaxevanis.

    • Andreas – I think the whole thing is a mass distraction. Best case scenario it Lagarde list was 1.5 billion in unpaid taxes, or in other words enough to cover government overspending for 3 weeks. It is a non issue compared to the monster of issue of a government hemorrhaging cash.

      The fact that he was arrested shows the corruption of the Greek state. Surely it is up to those named to press charges and not the government. I don’t see how this is any of the government’s business.

    • @ Richard

      I disagree. The monetary ascpect is only one part of the whole story. No matter if the money these ‘elites’ owe Greece can fund her expenses just for one week or for a whole year. Besides, every cent counts.

      Even more important is that finally the huge Greek pluto- and cleptocracy starts to feel the heat. Not only, as it was the case so far, the middle and lower income classes only.

      This could really be the ignition for a fundamental change process in the Greek culture and society. The revolution I advocated since years. And this is absolutely needed. Otherwise, Greece will forever depend on the transfers other nations are willing to fund.

    • VSS – Fundamentally you are correct. Of course every little helps. My point is this list has been thee news story for weeks. The air time it is getting a completely and utterly disproportionate to the size of the problem. Greek government overspending should be prime-time not this list. And fundamentally the crisis in Greece is about overspending by government and not tax collection, not even close.

  • To start with, Venizelos gave a stick with the list, whose contents are more reliable than a published list by somebody who could have changed anything he wanted ( deleted names, inserted names, etc.) . What if your name were on it? For years I had worked in Switzerland and had an account, fortunately not in HSBC.

    All the civil servants working abroad have bank accounts, that is how money is transferred in civilized countries. By erasing the sums of money, any unfortunate civil servant working abroad becomes a “rich man” pointed out for the anarchists and crazies. What if your name were on the list?

    There is journalism and yellow journalism. I would consider the publishing of lists as yellow journalism and I do not see why the journalist should be protected for this aberration from sticking to clear rules: privacy laws that apply for any of us. What if you find yourself on another list with defamatory intent? Worse a list who gives targets for the crackpots/anarchists with their molotov bombs?

    A good journalist would have erased the names and given the sums of money. A good journalist would have investigated the names with large amounts of money, and if he/she made sure that the money was inconsistent with declarations in Greece, then publish names.

    I believe that the judge was intimidated by the large media push to get mr. Vaxevanis exonerated, who needs to become a target for anarchists?

    οποιος σπερνει ανέμους θεριζει θύελλες
    He who sows winds harvests tempests

    I consider this decision a small defeat of democracy and its rules. If there are no rules obeyed soon people will start fighting in the streets as things get worse and worse.

    You seem to be espousing revolution, safely from abroad.

    • I espouse transparency. No journalist in the world, of a certain calibre, would have refrained from publishing. And only a repugnant state sends police into the journalist’s house to arrest him like a common criminal – when for three years it has been sitting on a list that other states investigated thoroughly. This is not yellow journalism but a rare example that genuine journalism and a free press are still possible in Greece.

      (By the way, deleting names is equivalent to deleting sums. As long as one of the two is deleted, personal data is protected. And of course there is nothing wrong with having a bank account in Switzerland. I too had an account once in Switzerland. If my name appeared on this list, or any other, I would not have any problem whatsoever. And recall that Vaxevanis would not have printed it if the state had investigated it, rather than pretend it did not exist. Note too that Vaxevanis made very, very clear in his article that the people on the list are innocent till proven guilty. His point was to expose the myth that the list had been… lost.)

    • I think our disagreement is based on your statement

      “deleting names is equivalent to deleting sums. As long as one of the two is deleted, personal data is protected”

      I do not see this as equivalent. When the sum is missing in a lost of putative tax evaders of large income, the reader inserts a large sum for all, it becomes a “list of the rich and lucky to have money in HSBC”. It is worse than publishing the sum for the individual small fish. You believe obviously that this does not make people targets, and not only of envy. It will directly impact on their social life and that is invasion of privacy.

      If names were deleted and people could make statistics out of it: so , many with over 1 million, so many over 100.000 euro.

      Actually I think that the sums were not published because most of them would be relatively small, small fry, and the list would not be impressive.

    • You are wrong. The names were important because they revealed precisely why the list was not investigated. The sums alone would not have cut it. Moreover, I can assure you the sums were large. (I have seen them.)

    • Anna V – If there is a problem it us up to the people named on the list to sort it out. It is not the responsibility of the Greek taxpayer to pay their legal bills.

    • anna v: I agree with your arguments and yet, I also agree – at the end of the day – that it was not a terrible sin to publish the list. I attach a link where I explain my reasoning.

      http://klauskastner.blogspot.gr/2012/10/my-few-cents-worth-on-list.html

      Mr. Vaxevanis wrote in The Guardian that “the existence of a bank account is not personal data”. Regrettably, he is wrong! I can declare that I have a bank account at Eurobank by walking through its doors or by writing it on an invoice. However, a third party CANNOT do that. I think it is good for the benefit of all that Mr. Vaxevanis was swiftly acquitted of a crime. Otherwise, he would have become a martyr. But there is no question about the fact that in any EZ-country any court of law acting without external pressures would have convicted him.

      The publication can be justified against the background that it was a public service to make up for the public disservice committed by the authorities for over 2 years and that hope was not justified to believe that the authorities would honor their responsibilities.

      I warn, however, to completely tear down institutions under the false pretext of ‘transparency’! As long as it is possible, public institutions have to be improved instead of being torn down. Once they are being torn down you will end up with anarchy, whether you like it or not.

      If someone argued that only anarchy can still save Greece, I might listen to his argument but I doubt that I could support it at this time.

    • Ms. Anna probably forgot about the list that contained names of singers along with their respective declared incomes.I bet you didnt demand the imprisoment of the journalist that published it, did you?Do you have an explanation as to why that certain journalist wasnt brought to justice?Especially since he published their incomes along with the names while Vaxevanis simply published a bunch of names while stating that the names’ existance on the list doesnt mean anything in and of itself.My bet is that the singer’s list was published with the blessings of your beloved government, whats your bet ms. Anna ?

      http://www.showbiz.com.cy/artha/48-2009-10-07-12-15-17/8440–lr.html

    • Anna: you are a very naive person, I think. Apart from the correct analysis presented here by Yanis, I can also tell you that the Greek state has a history of abusing the Data Protection Act in order to protect its own interests. For example, in the recent past I found it impossible (as an advisor to a Greek political party) to purchase anonymized datasets such as the Labour Force Survey or the Census. The reason given was “data protection” — even though the law gives an exemption for policy advisory and statistical research of a non-commercial nature. Also, the entire datasets for all the EU countries can be purchased — at a cost of over 10,000 euros. So, the Statistical Service ensures that Greeks cannot access the data, while the rest of Europe can (if they pay a high price).

      Moreover, the only reason that Greece has a data protection act at all, is that it was obliged to pass one in order to join Schengen. The Greek law is just a copy of other countries’ laws — and was never passed to protect the Greek people. It was passed as a political act concerning Greece-s foreign relations.

      So, the very idea that the public prosecutor was concerned to protect the individual rights of ordinary Greeks is just hilarious. Obviously, he was instructed by the current mafia in power to teach this journalist a sharp lesson — namely, that Greece is run by crooks for the benefit of crooks, and journalists had better not forget it!

      What a humiliation for this sham government headed by Samara — and one that got a lot of international publicity. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot…

    • @Crossover, if you can read greek you will see that the list of tax returns by all taxpayers is published every year and anybody can have access, lawfully:

      “3. Ο προϊστάμενος της δημόσιας οικονομικής υπηρεσίας συντάσσει κάθε έτος, με βάση τις δηλώσεις που του επιδίδονται, κατάλογο φορολογουμένων, ο οποίος περιέχει το ονοματεπώνυμο ή την επωνυμία, τον τίτλο και τα λοιπά στοιχεία τους, το καθαρό εισόδημα από τις κατηγορίες Δ΄ και Ζ΄, το συνολικό καθαρό εισόδημα το οποίο υπόκειται σε φορολογία καθώς και το φόρο που αναλογεί σε αυτό. Ο κατάλογος αυτός καταρτίζεται μέσα σε έξι (6) μήνες από τη λήξη της προθεσμίας υποβολής των δηλώσεων και συμπληρώνεται με τα αντίστοιχα στοιχεία της οριστικοποίησης της εγγραφής του υποχρέου. Τοποθετείται σε πρόσφορη θέση στο κατάστημα της δημόσιας οικονομικής υπηρεσίας και των δήμων ή κοινοτήτων όπου εδρεύει δημόσια οικονομική υπηρεσία, ώστε να μπορεί να λαμβάνει γνώση αυτού οποιοσδήποτε. Επιτρέπεται η έκδοση καταλόγων των φορολογουμένων όλης της χώρας, καθώς και η δημοσίευσή τους στις εφημερίδες. ”

      from http://epixeirisi.gr/actions/lemma/?item_id=4755482

      so your example about the artists does not hold.

    • @Chris Coles

      The difference lies in the “estimate” , it is not a list from banks of people who were anonymous to the public up to now, and , hopefully, Britain is not at the threshold of great social unrest, as Greece is rapidly getting into.

      Publishing a list of the rich in Greece now is almost equivalent to publishing a list of the aristocrats during the french revolution. I still say “almost” because the new measures have not hit the middle class yet. When the middle class can no longer support its children, those children will crowd the anarchists and revolutionaries lists.

      Is that what we want? If a law exists, and it does, to stop inciting one group against the other , it is good that it is applied at times like this.

      In any case mr. Vaxevanis even if found guilty would not have been made a martyr, he would probably have to pay a good fine to refrain from yellow journalism next time he is tempted..

    • @Guest ( Xenos)

      If something is not done according to law, this does not set a precedent that everything becomes lawless and anarchy should reign.That is the naive attitude.

      One should praise when the law is applied and apportion blame when it is not.

      Yes, the greek civil service should really be dismantled and built up from the beginning again. In my interaction with the civil service I would say that it works because of the 20 or 30% of the people who are conscientious and cannot fool on the job. The rest are just there for the pay check and their reactions are random ,on the principle of least work until time to go home. We have all been victims of that.

    • @Anna V

      Your reply covers the part about the income, and thanks for the clarification since i was not aware of the fact.But what about real estate property?
      2. Οι δηλώσεις Φόρου Ακίνητης Περιουσίας είναι απόρρητες και δεν επιτρέπεται η γνωστοποίησή τους σε οποιονδήποτε άλλον, εκτός από τον φορολογούμενο τον οποίο αφορούν αυτές.

      http://www.forologikanea.gr/pages/display/arthro-46-forologiko-aporrito/

      http://www.newsbomb.gr/koinwnia/story/232822/posa-pairnoyn-kai-posa-dilonoyn-oi-ellines-tragoydistes

      And still, if you want to stay away from the purely legal standpoint for a moment, we are talking about a list that publishes the tax statements of the singers for 2009.The list was published not long ago, in 2012.Do you really believe that a journalist woke up one day, and decided to make a list (which is partly ilegal if what i posted is correct) with the tax statement of singers from 3 years ago?You really see no motive behind this ?

      PS.Im not in favor of the singers if they are tax evading,But i see double standards in this case both from a legal and from an ethical perspective.

    • @@Crossover
      As I have never asked to see the public list I do not know what is in there. It is quite possible that the total of the real estate value of the tax payer is also in the list, since it will be used as a τεκμήριον , a material evidence on which the tax is imposed if the declared income is low. This will be within the guidelines in your list because it will be money, not described property.

      On the question of dictated publications to serve the government, it is hard to tell if it might be just voluntary contributions to serve the government. I have seen a lot of passionate people defending their party, who will probably investigate all avenues for this defense without need of central control.

      Who dictated mr Vaxevanis? I can say it was Syriza, which seems bent on destroying the status quo violently, instead of allowing it to slide to the same bottom gently. On the other hand I follow the saying:

      “Do not attribute to conspiracy what simple stupidity can explain.”

      Or ideology, or party fanaticism, or bad digestion…. 😉

    • “Who dictated mr Vaxevanis? I can say it was Syriza, which seems bent on destroying the status quo violently, instead of allowing it to slide to the same bottom gently.”
      It very well could be Syriza behind him who knows.Although in that case, his reputation in my eyes would drop not because Syriza (or any other party for that matter) is behind him but because he needed a motive of that sort to do what he should have done anyway!

    • @Anna

      Obviously, you do not understand why laws exist and why the implementation of law is often distinct from theoretical notions of law.

      In fact, this is one of the major problems of Greek people — namely, that you imagine law as some exogenous structure that you either conform with or pretend to conform with. This is derived from the Ottoman Empire and Greek location within it.

      In a modern functional country, the law should be an expression of popular consent, and policing likewise. Greek laws are a sham and a disgrace, and largely reflect the corruption of Greek politicians and the need to implement European rules. The last thing that Greek law represents is the will of the people; similarly with the Greek police. So, don’t try to tell me what law is about, since you have no idea.

  • Dear Andreas Dimopoulos, you are right, and as far as I understand Yanis Varoufakis would agree. Still it IS a small victory, is it?
    Pointing out again and again what Yanis names the three points (tax evasion, the actual blurb of so many parts of the mass media, the political class as it is now) is, and by far not only in Greece, what all of us can do. Some, like probably us, in the humble position without standing before a camera. Great that Yanis Varoufakis is heard “out there”, even if the big (add a word here^^, I choose to stay polite) overlook his and similar positions most of the time still.

    What a free press can achieve is that we at least know – as much as possible. We just have to open, each morning, most of our newspapers to find areas where they – sometimes lie, sometimes ignore vast parts, and so on. People trust them…rather naively, like they were sitting somewhere with the reporter, having breakfast…

    So hooray, really, to the free press.
    And it is not that easy – in Germany one of the very few left wing papers, “Junge Welt” – one of the very few that indeed told us here how life in Greece really is for many people, struggles. The amount of money that’s missing would be a mere nothing for the big papers who live with much much more debts often – yet for independent small leftist media it might be dangerous. One might not always agree with all a paper writes – that’s not what they are made for^^ – but if they, for example, collapse, Germany would be more dependent from media that once were full of variety, but turned to the, how to put it, “indifferent- right” since many years (der Spiegel more and more; taz, and so on.)
    Face it, one of the biggest problems if serious trouble has arrived, like in Greece, is the indifference of a real lot of people. You would easily find a lot of our middle classes in the rich countries who, reading about Greece, would turn the page and think, “my, another lenghty soooooocial spot….let’s read about that new vernissage here. Ah, they like Andy W. They must be GENIUS…”

    So let’s forget about this, and the bizarre faces whose expression is always toned to “superior, disinterested, cool” – for a few hours – and get that “dose of courage” :). Just that more of our various positions should make it into the heads of a majority.

  • Surely the silence of those that first tried to pretend the list did not exist; places them squarely at the centre and thus directly associated with the tax evasion?

    In which case, the reason for the inactivity was their own perception of culpability in tax evasion; that they knew they themselves were also culpable.

    Here in the UK we call that a crime described as: Conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

    • Chris – Or they knew they had the list through illegal means and did not want to expose themselves to legal attack by using it. Its a possibility?

    • Richard,

      it was my understanding that in every other nation presented with such a list, by, I might add, none other than the IMF itself; the authorities acted on the information and it was that that prompted me to think along the lines that if they did not act like all the other nations then there must have been a reason. Failure to act is the underlying difficulty they are in. Nothing to do with the contents of the list; it is the failure to act that damns them.

      Knowing that a crime has taken place and then saying/doing nothing is a crime in of itself. I once had this precise conversation with Lord Denning, (he was at the time Master of the Rolls, the most senior Law Lord in the UK).. He confirmed to me in a direct telephone conversation; the law is very specific, if anyone has knowledge of a crime it is the duty of that person to report it to the authorities. So, if they knew that the list was evidence of crime, then they had an absolute duty to act upon the information. To not do so is a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

      I can only report what I understand is the law here in the UK; but I do believe that such would apply anywhere in Europe. Thus reporting that the authorities had not acted to investigate and as such to expose the possibility that such a crime might have occurred; was entirely legal. He could not go to the authorities to report; as they were the culprits; so, as I see it, he had no option but to go public.

      It was the failure to act that damns them.

    • Chris Coles – It sounds like you are assuming that the evidence was collected legally. It might have been, it might not have been. The Greek government claims there is a chance it was not. Whether they can be believed or not is besides the point. There is an investigation underway to determine the facts. Maybe the truth will come out in the wash and people will be prosecuted as you outline. But I doubt it.

      Again it is the government creating the problems and not only that, the government is now implying it will pay the legal fess of these alleged tax evaders so their privacy can be protected. It is all upside down.

  • Very good text! As I recently wrote:

    —-
    I lost sympathy for Greece for a different reason: her unwillingness to abandon the ruling plutocracy. The huge coalition of politicians of all parties, rich people, union leaders, public ‘servants.

    If Greece would collect the due taxes not just from small and medium income people but from all persons and businesses, she had a much, much smaller fiscal and solvency problem. Interesting in this context

    ‘… estimate a lower bound of 28 billion euros of unreported income for Greece’, see

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2109500

    This is a status only Greece herself is responsible for and thus only Greece herself can correct. I hope she does, fast.
    —-

    Looks like the Greeks finally start to take the right action! Instead of only blaming others, as they did for years. Congratulations.

  • I think that you are all missing many points at once.
    The first one being that Vaxevanis was probably acquitted on legal technicality. I am not a law expert, but I think that I am safe in assuming that if one of the people on the list or –worse – HSBC itself presses charges, Mr. Vaxevanis’ case will not be so open and shut. You might not have been bothered if your name were on that list. Mr. Varoufakis, because a) everyone knows who you are and b) you are lucky enough to have put a safe distance between yourself and the high passions running in this country now.
    Secondly, let us make clear that large sums are not incriminatory by themselves. Being a successful professional is NOT a crime. Having inherited lots of money is NOT a crime. I’m only noting this because for very many people in this country, this is exactly their problem.
    Thirdly, Mr. Varoufakis, you’ve got the number of tentacles right, but the quality of the 2 tentacles wrong. The 3 tentacles that brought this country down are: extensive tax evasion FROM TYCOONS TO PLUMBERS, widespread corruption ON ALL LEVELS OF SOCIETY and a heavy social services payroll.
    Personally, I would be much more interested in seeing the list of the 33000 (yes that is thirty three THOUSAND) unregistered IKA pensioners. After 3 official headcounts, the percentage of people guilty on that list is bound to be at least equal, but probably much higher, than that of people guilty in Vaxevanis’ list. The money stolen that way equals or by far exceeds that which was tax evaded by people on Vaxevanis’ list. And that is for IKA only.
    So many people in this country are guilty of some level of fraud and tax evasion, that if we published all their names on a list we would end up hitting each other on the streets.
    And, by the way, in these troubled times, when people are impoverished and desperately looking for someone to pin the blame on, disclaimers such as: ‘the people on the list were not proven guilty in a court of law’ will not count. The people on the list are already branded as ‘tax evaders’ or –perhaps even worse- as plain ‘filthy rich’. Vaxevanis knew that, as well as he knew that this disclaimer would probably be the technicality that set him free.
    Because this is the main point missed by everybody here: even assuming that all names on that Lagarde list are guilty – which is statistically impossible but let’s suppose they are, what good will publishing these names do?
    I know, let us conduct an experiment, a market test of sorts, and publish the names of the thousands who were actually PROVED to be guilty of collecting fake disability benefits for YEARS. Let’s do that and see how uncivil a war breaks out in several rural communities.

    • Alien – “So many people in this country are guilty of some level of fraud and tax evasion, that if we published all their names on a list we would end up hitting each other on the streets. ” – I disagree, it might just be the thing to set the people free which is why the Greek government dare not publish numbers – “Kind of like the Roman senator who said it wasn’t such a good idea to make slaves wear something to identify them because then they would know just how many of them were”

    • Well done. That, unfortunately, is just one of the Greek tragedies. The other is that the state employees’ cleptocracy has been routinely ommited by Dr. V. Why do you think Syriza is all of a sudden so popular? All the former PASOKniks have switched allegiance. And so goes for the pseudo intellectuals who held sit-ins at the Greek universities. I see some of them over here in the US now, with short hair and conforming to RULES. Well, they can hold sit-ins all day long in Greek cafes.

      The only one with testicles left in Greece is Othiseas Konstantinopoulos who tells it like it is. He didn’t abandon PASOK just because things are tough at the ranch.

      All the traitors deserve to be punished. That includes the politicians, the state employees and the tax evading crooks. But that would mean half of Greece would end up in jail or worse.

  • Since when is it the job of journalists to enforce data protection laws? When the New York Times and the Guardian published portions of the Wikileaks documents, (information far more sensitive that a simple list of names) their journalists were not arrested. Yet in Greece the state is exceedingly efficient when it comes to shooting the messenger.

  • If I was a rich man I would probally understand that countries since the nation state days of Cromwell really but more especially under the market state model act as mere conduits for the debt pimps.
    I would like to think I would use my resourses to make this info available perhaps like the much reformed Late James Goldsmith.

    Although maybe I would spend a few Bob on Catherine Zeta Zones.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Nca7BuzpgY

    • TDOC – “the …. state model act as mere conduits for the debt pimps. ” – Bingo, the debt pimps being the central banking system.

  • Dear All,
    let me state some of the old truths:
    (1st) Possession of Wealth is NOT a sin therefore there is no reason of covering the fact. On the contrary it must be stated not only because we have only ‘limited ownership’ but because (2d) Rich people must “αντιδός” give back to the community, cover community needs (safety, food, entertainment, defense, etc) and
    (3d) No one can make wealth by his own powers. Because he owes much to his teachers from primary school and upwards, to all Great people that formed the civilization of his country and so on thus the very ‘limited’ personal contribution to producing wealth by only himself.
    This happened in Ancient Greece’s time (the so called sponsorships were not exactly voluntarily), in Great Fathers’ era, and stopped at times when persons turned to individuals.
    St Gregory Palamas et all, Theod. Ziakas, G. Contogeorgis, J. Gerassis have written great books about economy – democracy – people.
    George Kakarelidis

  • About press freedom: reasonable people can debate whether publishing names is good journalism but the state’s power to imprison citizens is not the remedy for journalism it disagrees with. It is tyranny. Unless you imagine the government was acting solely to protect other citizens, with no state interest of its own. About data protection: the European concept (this does not apply to some national laws going further) is that if people entrust you with their information, you have a duty of care not to release it or misuse it. The journalist is not in any way bound by this duty of care, except for his or her publication’s own subscribers and employees. If journalists were bound by the obligations of their sources of information, they could publish almost nothing from the public authorities (who typically have confidentiality requirements) or many other corporations or interest group with similar obligations. It would be like letting HSBC sur the journalist for breach of the terms of employment of the banker who handed someone that list. A separate note about the level of budget cuts demanded by the IMF: there can be no doubt it is as painful as you describe, and I’m sure every Greek old enough to remember these days will bear the scars. But when we speak of the worst ever in civilisation, first recall the many cases where the IMF called for an immediate currency devaluation, impoverishing most everyone overnight. Their medicine comes with their money, which I’d public money from elsewhere, and is given when no one else will give it. Whether this is the chemo that poisons the patient as well as the sickness, we can only pray it’s not.

  • http://www.veriorama.com/krisi_1.php
    Ολοι όσοι θεωρούνται αδαεις περι τα οικονομικα ας διαβασουν αυτη την σελίδα και τις υπόλοιπες 7 -δεν θα πάρει πάνω από 15 λεπτά.
    Ετσι θα καταλάβουμε οσοι ακούσαμε τομ Βαρουφάκη χθες να λέει οτι η λύση για τώρα θα ήταν να καλύψουμε τα 2 δισ που ειναι το πρωτογενες έλειμα – δηλαδή τόσα μας λειπουν απο τους μισθούς συντάξεις και πληρωμες του κρατους προς τους πολίτες και τονεαυτό του…- για το ξεπλήρωμα του χρεους ΑΠΑΙΤΕΙΤΑΙ ΣΟΒΑΡΗ ΠΟΛΙΤΙΚΗ ΔΙΑΠΡΑΓΜΑΤΕΥΣΗ και σαφως ΑΝΑΒΟΛΗ ΠΛΗΡΩΜΗΣ—ολα τα αλλα που αφορούν την δόση ειναι για να ξεπληρώσουμε τα χρεη της πολιτικής μας τάξης που δανειζόταν ασύστολα για να “μιζώνει” τους εγχώριους υποστηρικτές της και να χρυσώνει την βαρια βιομηχανία της Ευρωπης , ειτε λέγετΑΙ οπλικά ειτε ενεργειακά συστήματα ειτε συστήματα ασφαλείας..κλ.π. ΔΑΝΕΙΖΟΜΑΣΤΑΝ τόσα χρόνια για να πληρώνουμε τα υπέρογκα ποσά σε ΥΠΕΡΤΙΜΗΜΕΝΕΣ ΣΥΜΒΑΣΕΙΣ!!!!!! να γιατι χρειάζεται Λογιστικός ελεγχος του χρεους!!!!!
    πότε θα ξεσηκωθούν και οι πέτρες από αυτά που μας σερβίρει το πολιτικό σύστημα που πασχίζει με “νυχια” (ξεσκίζει αυτη την ώρα την σάρκα της κοινωνίας μας) και “δόντια” να κρατήσει τα προνόμιά του???

  • Just because someone has money in Switzerland or wherever does not mean that they are guilty of tax evasion or anything else. In a free society you have a right to deposit YOUR money where the hell you like. What is a disgrace is that the information was passed to the Greek authorities and they, conveniently, lost the memory stick.

    • What is a disgrace is that even the Swiss government estimates that about half of the bank deposits in their country are directly related to criminal activities, tax evasion and money-laundering.

      Try engaging your brain before spouting individualistic neoliberal propaganda about “your” rights to hide away stolen money and nobody being allowed to comment on it. We do not live in a free society: we live in a heavily bondaged society where politicians, bankers, criminals and other scum are taking decent ordinary people’s money and laughing about it.

    • Guest – ” we live in a heavily bondaged society where politicians, bankers, criminals and other scum are taking decent ordinary people’s money and laughing about it.” What are you talking about? The only people that take things from you is the government. No other party has the power to take your things against your will. If someone does you can call the police. With the government you cant call anyone.

      About tax evasion and Swiss bank accounts. If you like paying taxes I don’t see what your problem is. No one is telling you you cant pay. If you don’t like paying taxes why don’t you put your money is Switzerland. Either way it is your choice, you have nothing to moan about.

    • In a free society you have a right to deposit YOUR money where the hell you like.

      A society has laws, Andy (civilized societies, anyway). If Greek law obliges a Greek citizen to report any offshore banking accounts then he/she better damn report them.

    • Guest (xenos),

      In a free society you have a right to place your money where you chose. I did not say that you have a right to disobey the law and not report such deposits on your tax return. Nor did I say anything about ‘stolen money’, and nor would I.

      But perhaps you should also reflect on the last time you paid the plumber in cash and did not ask for a reciept; or had a filling done at the dentist and paid in cash with no questions asked. You are guilty of aiding tax evasion. But of course that’s different. We are talking a few hundred Euros and not the millions stolen by. . . . well, by whom exactly ??

    • @Richard and Andy: you both appear to be very muddled in your understanding of contemporary economic structures. Do you really think that the major problem of the global economy is that of government taxation and under-reported income taxes? If so, you are quite clueless and really should confine yourselves to asking questions of those with expertise.

      The primary problem facing all of us is that Europe and North America are incapable of competing with emerging economies but persist with the delusion that free trade and free movement of capital is a wonderful solution to that problem. As part of that “delusion” (for it is a cynical miscalculation) western politics has been hijacked by the naked interests of non-productive capital (especially banking) at the expense of other fractions of capital, workers and voters. This is a crisis of developed capitalism and democracy — at its most visible in the eurozone — and has fuck all to do with any of the things that you are bleating about.

      Do try to think beyond the neoliberal propaganda that you blithely repeat again and again: it is very boring to read your thoughtless comments.

    • Guest – Look up the definition of “Neo-Liberal” please, you don’t appear to know what it is. My words at least are almost the exact opposite of neo-liberalism. Let me help you out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism

      You also seem to be blissfully unaware that your comment reinforces what I have been saying.

      “the major problem of the global economy is that of government taxation and under-reported income taxes?” (you forgot to mention regulation)

      and then you say

      “The primary problem facing all of us is that Europe and North America are incapable of competing with emerging economies”

      Sorry, why if not for taxation and regulation do you think Europe cannot compete with China for example? Europeans are more stupid? Don’t have access to technology? What exactly?

    • Guest – Let me apologise, I read as far as “and promoted instead a market economy under the guidance and rules of a strong state, ” and stopped reading. Actually, the article is pretty accurate.

      Take out that comment, Corporatocracy & Crony Capitalism, and obviously take out the wars and it is pretty close.

      Actually, use “libertarian” and your pretty much there if your looking for a label.

    • Richard, my dear boy: the only time I read wikipedia is to correct the heinous errors that morons insert into articles. Of course, I have had such morons telling me (even when they have cited my own publications as a main reference) that I have no understanding of the topic in question…

      Your comments are heavily influenced, if not shaped, by the last 30 years of neoliberal propaganda in the western world. I do not accept the validity of the word “libertarian”, when clearly your views are neo-libertarian — that is, neo-liberal. QED

    • Guest – In that case my dear boy – what definition of neo-liberal are you using? State your source.

    • @Richard: if you don’t know the mainstream literature on the meanings of liberal and neoliberal, then you have no business arguing with me. I am not some idiot student looking up wikipedia definitions: I have read and lectured on much of the political economy literature. I suggest that you start reading, before typing. We are way beyond any useful role for propaganda.

  • Yani:

    As to the proposed remedy here:

    http://www.protagon.gr/?i=protagon.el.8emata&id=19508

    my understanding is that the government owes euro 8 Bil. in arrears payments.

    Therefore the size of the hole is not only 2.5 Bil for primary surplus. More like 8+2.5 = euro 10.5 Bil.(assuming that neither of these two components grows larger).

    Therefore in order for Greece to achieve “negotiation independence” we need to cover a bit more distance.

  • In the United States, presidential candidates hide tens of millions of dollars outside the country (or inside, in the case of Delaware). Politicians regularly use the state for the their personal enrichment, whether through banks, the military-industrial complex, or simply through land ownership. Let’s not pretend that a few bad Greek apples spoiled the Atlantic bloc’s barrel.

    Taxes alone can’t explain the international financial crisis, neither in Greece nor in the US. The US can export its economic crisis; in fact, it has been doing so for decades (re: Global Minotaur). Violence is also exportable: Greece does not own a global network of several hundred military bases, for example. Rather, Greece plays merely a supporting role through regular and ongoing purchases of French and German weapons, employing thousands of industrial workers in those countries. Unfortunately for Greece, its government is mostly able to oppress its own people, unlike the US, the world hegemon.

    It’s too bad we can’t see a list of US politicians with Swiss bank accounts, that there is neither national embarrassment about the possibility of tax immunity nor international outrage. But that’s one privilege of dominating European politics: no EU politician dares to question the US tax system, US debt, or the US balance of trade, while every cent must be accounted for in the European periphery. Indeed, many European elites dream about imitating a system of accumulating wealth which, by its very nature, must be limited to the US. Muttering about disruptions to EU mercantilism does not meet the standard of criticism since no one in power wants a transparent open audit of government budgets in the US or the EU. In this respect, Vaxevanis has placed journalism and the political conversation in Greece much ahead of the US.

    • .Rather, Greece plays merely a supporting role through regular and ongoing purchases of French and German weapons . . .

      Indeed. Germany and France account for nearly 40% of Greece’s weapons imports. Actually, about 15% of Germany’s total arms exports are made to Greece!

      And you know what’s funny (besides the fact that Germany screams for Greece to impose inhuman austerity measures)? Germany demands and gets — after the bribes have been paid, of course — top dollar for their arms sales to Greece. Why is it funny? Well, Germany subsidizes its arms exports to Israel, a non-euro country. And when I say “”subsidizes,” I am talking selling to the rogue state at cost — and if even that!

      Further reading: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/19/greece-military-spending-debt-crisis

    • Dear lastgreek
      What’s so funny about Germany expecting Greece to pay for German weapons they buy when Israel gets them partly free?
      Ever heard about the holocaust??
      There’s your answer!
      Nothing “funny” about it by the way. And calling Israel a rogue state may be justified when you look at how they effectively practice ethnic cleansing in a part of the occupied territories. But it is at the same time oversimplifying a very painful and complicated situation (for both sides!).

    • And you know what’s more funny?

      They still want to sell weapons to Greece.

      USA want to give away to Greece some 600 tanks and 1000 other vehicles , F15s and helicopters ( USA are used to grant used weapons and war materials to their NATO partners)

      Troika says that Greece cannot afford to have the free stuff!

      The prefer that Greece buys these stuff from Germany.

    • German-Iranian trade booming

      Germany’s exports to Iran have totaled over 25 billion euros since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office in 2005. Last week’s visit by three German deputies to Iran, which included a meeting with the German-Iranian chamber of commerce, cast an unfavorable light on Germany’s unbreakable trade relationship with Tehran.

      Flourishing bilateral trade relations between Germany and the Islamic Republic have been a source of frustration and anger at times for Israeli, British, French, and US efforts to impose tough EU economic sanctions.

      […] Dr. Wahdat-Hagh, a leading German-Iranian expert on Iran’s economy and regime, told The Jerusalem Post on Friday that Germany’s volume of exports “stabilize the power of the totalitarian dictator in Iran.”

      A comprehensive statistical account of German-Iranian trade from the Federal Republic’s office of statistics in Wiesbaden viewed by the Post on Friday, covering 1950 to 2011, depicts a booming trade relationship with Ahmadinejad’s government.

      Dr. Wahied Wahdat-Hagh, a Fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy, analyzed the numbers and told the Post, that “the numbers are better for Ahmadinejad than during the period of the Shah [Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi] who ruled Iran from 1941 to 1979.”…

      http://www.jpost.com/IranianThreat/News/Article.aspx?ID=290360&R=R1&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

    • Dearest Martin,

      Let’s start here:

      Ever heard about the holocaust??

      There’s your answer!

      I think I see your point, Martin. The Greeks, unlike the Israelis, were not savvy enough to negotiate better sales terms and conditions. Heck, even the submarines sold to Greece were defective. [FACEPALM]

      Nothing “funny” about it by the way.

      Exactly. So why are you bringing it up?

      And calling Israel a rogue state may be justified when you look at how they effectively practice ethnic cleansing …

      Of course we are justified in calling Israel a rogue state — because “look at how they [Israel] effectively practice ethnic cleansing”! Thank you for explaining it to the readers here. And your adverb “effectively” was apt.

      But it is at the same time oversimplifying a very painful and complicated situation (for both sides!).

      Complicated situation? And painful for whom … the Israeli occupier?

      What in tarnation is so complicated about ethnic cleansing and land theft? Moreover, the World Court has ruled on the Israel-Palestine conflict — on the questions of borders, of settlements, of the status of Jerusalem, and of the Separation Wall. And their opinions on these aforementioned questions were predicated on one fundamental principle of international law: THE ACQUISITION OF TERRITORY BY WAR IS ILLEGAL.

      Therefore, regarding the questions of …

      Borders: Israel has not title to any territory outside its pre-June 1967 borders. Period.

      Israeli settlements (in the occupied territories including East Jerusalem): The half a million Israeli squatters in the OCs are illegal — ” a flagrant violation of international law,” to quote the Court.

      Separation Wall: Illegal.

      You see, Martin? There is nothing complicated about the Israel-Palestine conflict. It is so crystal clear that even a child can understand it. Zionists and Israeli apologists like to use words like “complicated” in order to divert attention away from Israel’s war crimes. So, I gotta ask: What’s your reason?

      Btw … for those not familiar with the Turkey-Cyprus conflict, simply substitute “Turkey” for “Israel” and “Cyprus” for “Palestine” to what I wrote above, and you will be up to speed on the subject.

    • Dear lastgreek
      When someone finds something very easy that most others consider complicated then either he’s very clever – or he’s missed a few things…
      As I mentioned myself, there is not much else to say about the version of ethnic cleansing that Israel practices in a part of the occupied territories than that it’s completely unacceptable. However, to make things a little complicated, Israel is surrounded by countries that would love to wipe it off the map. If they were successful, they’d practice the same type of ethnic cleansing against the Jews – but on a larger scale and probably a lot uglier.
      Not a great excuse for Israel but still something you may want to consider if you want to come to a fair judgment.
      If one thing is fairly certain about the conflict then it’s that a simplistic good/evil scheme does not work. Both sides are trapped in a situation that makes them victims and perpetrators at the same time.
      There are “good people” on both sides that would want this mess to end – but unfortunately there are also plenty of the other sort, on both sides.
      The fact that that corner of the world is not exactly peaceful is not solely Israels fault, as you may have noticed. As long as Israel is (not without reason) feeling threatened in it’s very existence, it is very difficult for them to simply give up the occupied territories and assume things will be fine. Whenever they they retreated (Gaza and South Lebanon), some ultra-hostile group took over and used the power vacuum to fire rockets at Israel. Not that encouraging for Israel, is it?
      Have a look at a map: Israel is 20-30Km wide! If Israel just gave up control of the occupied territories, it would be very very hard to defend. The type of fanatics it is up against would see it as a sign of weakness and just do what’s happened after Israel withdrew from Gaza and South Lebanon. At least that’s the fear of many Israelis – and I can understand that.
      At the same time, not letting Palestinians in the occupied territories live free lifes is unacceptable and breeds hate on the palestinian side, understandably so.

      Plus, ultimately, both the Jews and the Arabs basically think that the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river is all theirs. That the others don’t belong there. And from their perspective, they both have a point. You still think it’s easy??

      I am not an expert on Cyprus but I think your analogy Turkey=Israel (so evil, in your eyes) and “Cyprus”=Palestinians (so innocent poor victims) is flawed. First of all, what is “Cyprus” in your eyes? For me it’s an island. On it there are ethnic Greek and ethnic Turks. Muslims and orthodox Christians. Do you accept the reality that there are people living on Cyprus that consider themselves Turks rather than Greek? If you do, then do you think it was a great idea to have Cyprua try to join Greece without really caring too much about what the Turkish part of the population thought? In your analogy, it would be the equivalent to Israel declaring that all the land between the mediterranean and the Jordan river is Israel and that the Arabs don’t really exist / can safely be ignored.

      Israel often behaves brutally – but to a big extent it does so because it feels (and is) vulnerable. It is a tiny country surrounded by hundreds of millions that would like to annihilate it. To see that as equal to Turkey is ridiculous.

    • “Israel often behaves brutally – but to a big extent it does so because it feels (and is) vulnerable. It is a tiny country surrounded by hundreds of millions that would like to annihilate it. To see that as equal to Turkey is ridiculous.”
      Actually israel has firepower that enables it to take down Turkey any time.

      As for Cyprus.Please dont highlight it as if it was a normal procedure agreed between Greece and the Greek-Cypriots.Greece was under the military junta which created a coup d’etat in Cyprus that overthrew the government in order to be able to unite Cyprus with Greece.Turkey intervened with the excuse of restoring “the constitutional order’ that existed in the island before the coup.So please.Even if you want to believe that for example the US invaved Iraq and Afghanistan in order to free people and establish democracy,at least they are starting to leave after almost 15 years.whats the excuse for Turkey occupying the territory for almost 40 years?Is there still the possibility of Cyprus merging with Greece that im not aware of ?

    • Fotis,

      When South Europe doesn’t buy, Iran is fine for Germany.

      Has someone checked North Korea.

    • Dear Crossover

      You wrote “Actually israel has firepower that enables it to take down Turkey any time.”.

      Well, no: Turkey’s military is huge. Turkey’s population is about 10 times bigger than Israels, the territory 38 times. If Israel wanted to attack (why, by the way?) there’d be Lebanon & Syria in the way.

      It just would not work. Just another example of this obsession with Jewish power etc.

      It is a small country – looking at a map is always a good idea…

      😉

    • @Martin

      I actually wanted to hint that the “poor tiny Isreal” vs Big Strong Turkey picture is kinda false.It was not an outcome prediction based on geography etc.Merely a comparison of military power.And isreal has both a big and also more sophisticated military than Turkey.And lets not forget the possibility of Isreal having nukes since it never gave out info about this possibility.
      Furthermore you cant possibly base your opinion simply on numbers.Its 2012.Wars are not conducted face to face usually or at least its not face to face combat that mostly affects the outcome.

    • Dearest Martin,

      I originally brought up the rogue state of Israel to highlight German hypocrisy. That was it. The last thing I wanted was for this thread to go off on a tangent, which is why I refrained from answering your post yesterday. However, your last reply to “Crossover” was just over the freakin’ top: “obsession with Jewish power”? “It [Israel] is a small country”?

      So, where exactly did you see the obsession in “Crossover’s” post? He brought Israeli firepower, that is all he did … and rightly so. That’s the obvious point he was making. Moreover, unless you’re completely naive about Israel’s military capacity, you would know that Israel is armed to the teeth. Hold on. Let me please rephrase it– a NUCLEAR SUPERPOWER armed to the teeth. So please don’t give us this “small country” bit, one of your many Zionist diversions. And please try to be consistent. I mean you’re all over the place. For example, you condemn the illegal, for-Jews-only settlements and then later on try to rationalize them — just like you try to rationalize Israel’s aggressive wars.

      Do you know how many times Israel has invaded Lebanon? (Hint: it’s more than you think) Do you know how many UN resolutions there are condemning the rogue state of Israel? (Hint: you’ll need a calculator for this one.) Seriously, why are you defending the rogue state’s lawlessness and brutality? ‘Cause let me tell you, by defending Israel you are not defending a democratic state; you are defending an apartheid state. And don’t give me more Zionist BS about how Israel is surrounded by enemies. Like duh, Martin, what do you expect from the victims when you ethnically cleanse and steal their land, gratitude? I am afraid the Zionist “pimple” a land without a people for a people without a land was busted long ago.

      I want to make one thing clear. Israel is the US’s main strategic asset.in the region, followed second by that other “beacon of democracy” Turkey. (It was Bill Clinton, during his presidency, who referred to Turkey as as such; it was right about the time when Turkey was slaughtering its Kurdish population). You see — no US ok, no illegal settlements in the occupied territories and . . . no invasion/partition of Cyprus. Yeah … I am blaming the United States

  • Yanis,

    About your tweet on the Merck decision not to sell drugs to Greek hospitals

    I’d like to inform you and our friends here a little more because im very familiar with the subject because of my job, I’m a pharmacist.

    The decision involved a specific chemotherapy drug.

    These drugs are categorized as “high cost” in Greece and both types of patients (treated at the hospitals or at home) take them for free from the hospital pharmacies.

    When the hospitals’ pharmacies do not have the drug, they write “not in stock” at the prescription and then the patient can order it at a regular pharmacy.

    Pharmacies have not being payed from the government for long time. This has brought us at an impossible situation. All savings of most of the Greek pharmacists are being spent in order to pay the wholesalers and companies.

    The state owes to the pharmacists 0.9bn euro

    Now companies demand cash in order to sell drugs to the pharmacies.

    Do you want to know where this all leads?

    Most of my colleagues demand the cost of the drug from the patient in order to get the drug.

    These kind of drugs cost in Greece between 100-2500 euro

    So if you don’t have that money in Greece you die.

    Impossible situation.

    • This is not the only drug that is missing from the hospitals. They have stock problems with almost every drug, and this type of drugs are used only for serious health problems.

      Merck is the first to make an official decision

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