Greek chief tax inspector says Christine Lagarde right to criticise evasion

Christine Lagarde was right to highlight the tax-dodging that costs Greece up to €45 billion a year, twice the sum the country needs to pay off its debts, the Greek chief tax inspector has admitted.

The head of the IMF sparked outrage in Greece two weeks ago after she suggested that it was “payback” time for Greeks who had worsened their country's finances by evading taxes.

But Nikos Lekkas, the head of the Greek tax inspectorate, the SDOE, has backed Mrs Lagarde and insisted that Greece could easily pay off its debts if taxes due for payment were paid into the Greek state's coffers.

”Tax evasion in Greece has reached 12 to 15 per cent of the gross national product,” he told Germany's Die Welt newspaper. “That is €40 to €45bn per year. If we could recover even half of that, Greece would have solved the problem. Our politicians have begun to understand that.”

Mr Lekkas expressed particular concern over 500 cases involving suspected tax evasion by Greek politicians, from different political parties and delays by banks to provide information on accounts, by which time the money “is probably gone”.

”Currently, I am sorry to say that there is not a good cooperation with the banks,” he said. “In over 5,000 cases, we have requested to inspect the accounts of suspects. Only in 214 cases were we successful.”

The tax inspector has warned the government that if the Greek elite remains unpunished for tax evasion amid the “systemic corruption that permeates the whole of society” then “there will be a social explosion.”


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