Suspended Sentence for Samos Restaurant Owner Who Berated Tax Inspectors

FILE - Evelpidon Street court complex in downtown Athens, Greece. Photo: Eurokinissi/Giannis Panagopoulos

ATHENS – With Greece trying to get restaurants on tourist islands to pay taxes, a restaurateur who refused to let tax inspectors closed her business and was charged with trying to intimidate them was given only a one-year suspended sentence by a Greek court.

According to the case file, auditors of the Independent Authority for Public Revenue (IAPR) had arrived at the restaurant in order to seal it and suspend its activities for 48 hours over its owner’s failure to comply with tax regulations, Kathimerini reported.

They said they were verbally assaulted by the owner, who was not named, and that she tore up the order sealing shut her restaurant, defying them and tax authorities, one of a number of such incidents in which the inspectors are berated or face attempted bodily harm.

One of the auditors said he had received a threatening phone call from the suspect. The local union of tax officials issued a statement condemning the incident and demanding protection of its members from incidents.

The court also ordered the suspension of the restaurant’s operation for 12 days instead of the original two. Brief shutdowns for refusing to obey tax laws means restaurants which are caught will pay relatively small penalties, making it more attractive to keep breaking the law as they don’t face permanent closure.

In July, a businessman who owns several bars and restaurants on the island of Patmos reportedly beat up a tax inspector trying to audit the business. Island restaurants have a notorious reputation for not giving receipts, jacking up bills and being tax cheats.

It’s common on Greek islands for tax officials to be threatened, even if police are nearby. In 2012, a team of tax inspectors and investigators from the Greek financial crimes squad SDOE were assailed by 200 people at a religious festival on Crete.

According to reports, local residents took offense that the tax inspectors chose that day to conduct raids on businesses for tax code violations with a large group at a taverna instigating the assault, heckling the officers and threatening them with violence if they didn’t leave the village.