State Confiscations of Greek Debtors Bank Accounts Not Paying Off

An elderly man leaves a branch of the National Bank of Greece in Athens. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis, File)

ATHENS – Hopes to get huge chunks of cash from Greeks indebted to the state have instead found diminishing returns by confiscating their bank accounts which have dwindled away since 2015 when the electronic raids began.

Data seen by Kathimerini show that the average balance in the accounts the state has issued thousands of confiscation orders for has now dropped to 500 euros ($550,) against 550 euros ($604.86) in 2016 and 730 euros ($802.82) in 2015, continuing a trend that showed even fewer returns in the first quarter of 2017 when household deposits fell to 98.8 billion euros ($108.66 billion) euros from 100.8 billion euros ($110.85 billion) at the end of 2016.

Unable to get much from wealthy tax cheats who hide their money in secret foreign bank accounts and aren’t being prosecuted, the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition is going after poorer people and those who keep their money in Greek banks which are under capital controls.

The huge number of confiscation notices that the banks execute upon the orders of the Independent Authority for Public Revenue has increased confiscations by 128.6 percent in just a year as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, already falling fast in popularity for reneging on anti-austerity vows, also broke a promise to protect smaller debts from the banks.

Some 1.5 million such notices were issued in 2016. Their huge volume is the result of the IAPR’s policy of sending notices to all the main banks even if a debtor does not have an account with all of them.