Under intense pressure from international lenders to go after tax cheats costing the country $70 billion but failing to make a single major prosecution, Greece is turning to 42-year-old techno wizz to replace manual records with a computerized, cross-referenced hunt for violators.
In a feature by the news agency Reuters, Harry Theoharis – who calls himself I.T. Monkey in his Tweets – said he’s coming out swinging and will have a hands-on approach to go along with his computer genius. He is a former Long-based technology manager for the collapsed Lehman Brothers financial investment firm.
“I΄m not the type of person who will lock himself up in his tower and not talk to anyone,” Theoharis told Reuters. “We must organize services better and cut routine procedures.” The news agency said he had long left Lehman Brothers before it went under in 2008, helping set off a worldwide recession which brought down Aspis Pronia, a Greek insurance group where he was chief information officer. The company’s chief was sentenced to eight years in jail for fraud and forgery.
During the crisis Greek tax revenue also collapsed as the economy went into a downward spiral, compounding the long-standing problem of evasion and forcing Athens into an international bailout.
Last month, Theoharis was appointed Secretary General for Public Revenue – a powerful job Athens created at the behest of its EU and IMF lenders. His job is to rid the tax service of political meddling and remove underperforming officials as part of reforms prescribed in the bailout deal keeping Greece afloat.
Previously as chief of the finance ministry΄s data service, he introduced innovations such online payment of road taxes. An avid user of Twitter he tweets taxpayers at one in the morning and yet appears clean-shaven on TV talks hows six hours later, Reuters noted. “The budget and the bailout plan are setting clear targets. Everybody will be measured against them, every quarter,” Theoharis said in an interview at his modest office in the finance ministry.