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Vaxevanis Says Rich Elite Rules Greece

As he faces trial on charges of violating privacy laws for publishing a list of 2,059 Greeks with $1.95 billion in deposits in a Swiss bank who were never checked for possible tax evasion, investigative journalist Costas Vaxevanis has charged the country is being run by a caste of powerful politicians and rich elite.
In a commentary appearing in the British newspaper The Guardian, Vaxevanis said that in Greece, “An exclusive club of powerful people engages in illegal practices, then pushes through necessary laws to legalize these practices, granting itself an amnesty, and in the end, there are no media to uncover what really happened.”
In his commentary, Vaxevanis said while it should not be assumed that everyone on the list is a tax cheat that the government should have reviewed it because there are unusually large sums that can’t be justified. “Some of this was “black money” – money that may not have been taxed or needed to be laundered,” he said.
“For the past two years, the issue of naming people who are assumed to hold bank accounts in Switzerland has poisoned political life in Greece, with political and financial blackmail taking place in the dark rooms of corrupt power,” he said, adding that’s why he decided to go ahead and publish the list that was being kept secret by the government. He said he had not violated privacy laws because he did not reveal the amounts of each depositor and that bank transactions are often carried out in public.
Vaxevanis wrote that the government, starting with the previous administration of then PASOK leader and prime minister George Papandreou, and continuing with current Premier Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative leader, are protecting a connected circle and that much of the Greek media goes along with it because they receive state-paid advertisements to silence them.
“A few months ago, Reuters and the British press uncovered scandals involving Greek banks. The Greek media didn’t write anything then either. The space that should have been granted to reports about these scandals was occupied by paid advertisements sponsored by the very people who caused the Greek banks to go under,” he wrote.
Greece has had the list of Greeks with deposits in the Geneva branch of HSBC bank for two years, but never acted on it. The names were part of a larger list on a CD stolen by a bank employee and handed by then French finance minister Christine Lagarde, now the head of the IMF, one of Greece’s international lenders, to then Greek finance minister George Papaconstantinou.
He recently said his aides lost it, a revelation that prompted current Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras to vow he would find it. Before he could, PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos, a former finance minister under Papandreou, produced a copy on a memory stick. Venizelos, a constitutional lawyer, said he too did not check the list for possible tax evaders because he felt it was unusable in court as stolen data, but Lagarde said other countries have used it to investigate possible tax fraud.
Two former financial crimes squad prosecutors also failed to review the list and the embarrassing exposure has reiterated the belief of many Greeks who believe the government is trying to protect politicians and the rich. Samaras is frantically trying to finalize a $17.45 billion spending cut and tax hike plan on the orders of international lenders while tax evaders largely continue to escape prosecutions.
The Athens Bar Association asked why Vaxevanis he was taken to court so swiftly when there’s been no action against Papaconstantinou and Venizelos. “Against former ministers, who were by law responsible for utilizing the list and nevertheless ‘lost’ it, there has so far been no legal or other proceedings of any kind,” the ABA said.
It accused the government of “protecting powerful social, economic and political elements,” saying that “such choices transmit the message to society as a whole that the democratic institutions of Greece, or what is left of them, are operating exclusively for the protection of the authority system itself, at the expense of constitutional legitimacy and the rights of the Greek people.”
Vaxevanis wrote that, “A study of the Lagarde list is highly revealing. Publishers, businessmen, shipowners, the entire system of power is shown to have transferred money abroad. And this is information from only one bank. Meanwhile in Greece, people are going through dumpsters for food,” referring to the country’s crushing economic crisis in which pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions have worsened a recession, putting nearly two million people out of work, closing 68,000 businesses and shrinking the economy by 7 percent.
“In Ancient Greek mythology, justice is presented as blind. In modern Greece, it is merely winking and nodding. The crisis in Greece wasn’t caused by everyone. And not everyone is paying for the crisis,” he wrote, adding that, “The exclusive, corrupt club of power tries to save itself by pretending to make efforts to save Greece. In reality, it is exacerbating Greece’s contradictions, while Greece is teetering on the edge of a cliff.”
He concluded that, “In the country that, as we like to remind ourselves, gave birth to democracy, democracy has become a strange new breed. Those in charge make sure that the right to vote come across as democracy, while negating democracy in the way they abuse the rights voters give them. And justice remains in thrall to politics.”

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