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In Greece, The Endless Greed That Knows No Bounds 

Twelve shipping oligarchs in Greece – a country of 10.3 million people and shrinking – have a combined net worth of $32 billion, which is $12 billion more than what 31 million tourists spent visiting in 2023.

The Dirty Dozen’s fortune represents about 12 percent of Greece’s Gross Domestic Product and while Greece’s middle class is taxed up to 44 percent of income without deductions, the shipowners pay no personal or corporate tax.

They pay a tonnage tax based on each ship’s cargo-carrying capacity that applies both to ships registered in Greece and abroad as long as the company maintains a management office in Greece.

In 2022, the New Democracy government that’s friendly to shipowners passed a law cutting in half the voluntary tax on dividends and capital gains for shipping companies, to 5 percent while teachers paid 22 percent.

During the 2010-18 economic and austerity crisis that saw workers, pensioners and the poor targeted by successive governments, shipowners prospered – and they’re doing so again, carrying Russian oil around the world.

That’s blood money, but they’re so busy clapping their hands in delight they forgot they had to pretend they care that countless civilians and children are being killed by Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

There are some among them who are philanthropists and help the country they allegedly love, but you can count those on the fingers of one hand. Want proof? Out of 5,500 Greek-owned ships that rule the world’s waves only 800 fly the Greek flag.

While they’re beating their breasts and claiming to be patriots, their ships fly the flags of places like Liberia, Panama, and the Marshall Islands to save money on taxes.

The truth is that they would fly the Turkish flag if they could profit from it and they don’t even try to hide their glee that the war means their tanker ships are in demand to carry Russian oil around the world.

The European Union and Greece are complicit in this because Russian energy supplies were exempted from war sanctions as they supply up to 40 percent of the bloc’s needs, giving the shipowners the perfect out – what they do is legal, if immoral.

The wealthy owners had said, whenever the idea of taxing them was raised, that they would move their operations away from their homeland to make more money instead of paying into coffers that could go to help the needy and vulnerable.

One of them, Haris Vafias, said there was a problem between patriotism and profit when he spoke at the 8th Naftemporiki Conference along with fellow shipowner George Prokopiou about the issues that worry them.

Vafias blamed the government. “Why not have 2,500 ships with the Greek flag? Because the law is so strict, it doesn’t allow us. It is a shame that countries with a much smaller maritime power have many more ships under their flag,” he said.

Nice try but no dice. The late, great actress and former Culture Minister Melina Mercouri – a real Greek who loved her homeland more than money – said, “I was born Greek, I will die Greek.” What’s he going to say? “I was born Liberian, I will die Liberian?” Pony up the profits and help your alleged country.

In an lengthy evisceration, Forbes magazine skewered whatever scruples the shipowners have – which are next to none – pointing out that one of them, George Prokopiou, said in 2022 just a few months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that it was an opportunity they couldn’t pass up to make more money.

“This is a tragedy for humanity, but at the same time it creates opportunities,” he said, and you could almost imagine the drool coming off his lips as one of the world’s biggest owners of tankers.

Another of the conscience-less, Evangelos Marinakis, the tycoon behind Capital Maritime and Trading and owner of the Olympiacos soccer team, didn’t mince words.  “We need to be able to take advantage of these opportunities,” he said.

What do they do with all of their money? Where’s the Marinakis Municipal Swimming Pool in Athens for children who can’t go to alleged public beaches taken over by businesses and resorts catering to people like him?

Where’s the Prokopiou Public Library that has a children’s room with sponsored activities for Greek children and others living in Greece who can’t afford to buy books or a Kindle Paperwhite or Nook? Why don’t they emulate Niarchos and Onassis?

“Sanctions after the invasion of Ukraine sent tanker values soaring, boosting the fortunes of these maritime moguls to record highs and minting at least seven new 10-figure fortunes,” the Forbes report said.

“If there is a chance to (do) business legally, they will exploit the opportunity,” Ioannis Theotokas, a Professor of Management of Shipping Companies at the University of Piraeus told the magazine.

Don’t even tell them how much money they can make smuggling refugees from Turkey to Greece in the holds of their ships or they’ll empty all the oil to make room for them.

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