After a crackdown on tax evasion on Greek islands showed as much as 100 percent in flagrant violations, a sweep by tax inspectors on the popular Hydra, which attracts many wealthy visitors, led to the arrest of a tavern owner who was not issuing receipts – only to lead to the inspectors being forced to stay in a police station until reinforcements arrived because islanders were furious at them.
The incident received widespread attention in the German news magazine Der Spiegel, which said it was typical of Greeks who refuse to pay taxes even though Germany is putting up much of the monies for $325 billion in two bailouts to prop up the near-dead Greek economy.
The tax inspectors landed on Hydra on Aug. 17, the high season for tourism, and an island that has a strong yachting and maritime tradition, and many wealthy and celebrity visitors and residents, such as Canadian singer Leonard Cohen. One restaurant owner was caught for tax evasion (she was not issuing the necessary receipts) and fainted. Tax inspectors arrested her son and led him to the local police station.
Protesting locals besieged the police station where he was kept. The tax inspectors were forced to remain in the station until the morning, when special police units arrived from Athens to set them free. Citizens and various representatives of the Municipality threw accusations against the police and asked: “How did they dare to set foot on the island?”
Under the title: “Furious Greeks attack Tax-inspector,” Der Spiegel said it’s just another example of rampant tax evasion in Greece, which is costing the country some $70 billion while a new coalition government is readying yet another round of austerity measures against workers, pensioners and the poor while letting tax cheats escape. The islanders apparently thought it was their right not to pay taxes. “We have no work at all and you come here and arrest us,” said a frustrated Greek bar-owner on Hydra against tax inspectors.
Der Spiegel also noted the tough times in Greece. “Greece is going through a tough recession with unemployment rates having climbed to 24%. In a country that stands in the brink of bankruptcy several billions need to be salted away … it remains doubtful, whether and how Greece will be able to stay in the Eurozone,” the article concluded.