A few years ago it was reported that in Greece, a country flush with shipping tycoons, big business owners with international markets, sports stars and a bevy of celebrities, that only six people reported an income of more than one million euros ($1.38 million).
According to Knight Frank’s 2014 Wealth Report, in the Greece of crisis and recession when millions of people are suffering from big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions, there are 721 millionaires, up from 571 in 2003. That’s not based on $1 million but a fortune of at least $30 million. Sounds like more than six to me.
Many of these people don’t stop there. They hide their riches in secret bank accounts in Switzerland, Luxembourg, London, Singapore, the Cayman Islands and anywhere they can avoid paying taxes while pretending they’re patriots, leaving it to workers, pensioners and the poor to bear the real burden.
And as the government of Prime Minister and New Democracy Capitalist leader Antonis Samaras and his partner, PASOK Anti-Socialist chief Evangelos “Opportunist” Venizelos impose harsh austerity measures on the most vulnerable, the country’s rich elite continue to escape because they work together to make sure it stays that way.
While many of the super-rich earn their money through big business, some of them have found an even better way to make fortunes without doing anything more than putting their signature on a loan they – and at least five Greek banks – know they aren’t going to repay, essentially stealing money from working people and pensioners who line up to make deposits but can’t get loans.
That was the startling revelation from the head of the country’s anti-money laundering unit, Panayiotis Nikoloudis, who is also a Supreme Court Deputy Prosecutor, in findings to Parliament.
Nikoulidis claimed that there was an elaborate scheme to use the five banks as private ATMS in which money was channeled to members of their boards, major shareholders, cronies and big business players through dodgy loans and transfers to tax havens and offshore bank accounts.
He indicated that Proton Bank, First Business Bank, Hellenic Postbank, Halkida Bank and Bank of the Peloponnese were essentially being used as conduits to steal as much as one billion euros through bad loans to the connected without having to determine where the money went, and other methods.
Nikoloudis showed evidence pointing to interbank activity, legal cover-ups, expertise in such schemes, and, of course, a steady cycle of interconnected interests that were protected by friendly media outlets and complicit politicians, Kathimerini reported.
He presented his own view of how the hierarchy of massive-scale corruption works: Of the 207 cases being investigated by his department, corrupt politicians do not appear to play a leading role, which is reserved for a very specific section of the economic elite with powerful media connections. The job of the politicians is to provide cover when needed, he said.
It’s expected the list will likely grow even longer, revealing more suspects, people with money, social standing and influence, people who have plundered the country and prospered while most of their countrymen have suffered.
The banks are used by Greek workers, pensioners and middle-class customers who have found it difficult to obtain loans themselves even though the money is their own deposits. Greece is also funneling 50 billion euros ($69.38 billion) in international bailouts to recapitalize banks, and is set to add as much as billion euros more.
Samaras has gone after the alleged schemers at the Hellenic Postbank, which had to be rescued, with a number of other officials there have arrested and charged with taking 500 million euros ($693.8 million) through bad loans.
Lavrentis Laventiadis, the major shareholder in Proton, which failed because there were so many bad loans and had to be nationalized by the government, has been jailed pending his trial on charges of stealing as much as 700 million euros ($928.7 million) but is set to be let out on bail because he hasn’t come to trial in the maximum 18 months detention period.
The ruthless way Greece’s rich, connected and elite savage their country is beyond despicable because not only are they stealing everything that isn’t nailed down, but they’re paying little or no taxes, leaving it to pensioners living on 300 euros a month and eating dog food, workers who’ve had their pay cut 30 percent and property taxes increased 700 percent to pick up the tab.
It’s just one of the reasons why people want to eat the rich and, as Greek graffiti notes: “Their wealth is our blood.” Indeed, the country’s affluent not only are not suffering during the crisis, but prospering, with Knight Frank estimating that in 10 years there will be 864 multi-millionaires.
Among Greece’s filthy rich are 92 with fortunes of more than $100 million, and if any of them gave a nickel to charity or paid their fair share of taxes it would be news because they are not patriots but economic traitors, and you can start with most of the shipping tycoons who pay almost nothing and contribute almost nothing to Greece even as they beat their breast and pretend to care.
The bank thefts don’t even include the 250 million euros ($346.73 million) essentially stolen by New Democracy and PASOK in bad loans. Samaras and his Socialist partner Venizelos haven’t been arrested for that of course and never will.