NEWS

Gov’t pursues catharsis along with reforms

Bid to impress creditors before summit

As Parliament reopens next week, with a new tax bill and the possible indictment of a former minister among the many difficult issues to be tackled, the government is keen to push forward with reforms pledged to international creditors ahead of a Eurogroup summit on January 21 where officials will decide whether to give Greece further rescue funding.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is determined to show the country’s creditors that his fragile coalition can break with the past by overhauling the public sector and cracking down on tax evasion and corruption, sources have told Kathimerini. The premier has reportedly pressed the judiciary to bring to account those found to have abused their status or to have illegally acquired wealth. “The inspections will be exhaustive but action will only be taken against political figures through institutional channels and on the basis of evidence,” Samaras is said to have told his aides in recent days.

Among the many areas in which Samaras is said to be pushing for catharsis is the alleged doctoring of the so-called Lagarde list by former Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou, who could face indictment in coming weeks if Parliament decides that he removed the names of three of his relatives from the catalog of Greeks with Swiss bank accounts.

Meanwhile authorities are probing another, much longer, list of Greeks said to have removed their money from the country between 2009 and 2011. This probe and an investigation by the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) and prosecutors into the Lagarde list of creditors are said to have quickly progressed amid vehement foreign interest.

At the same time the source of wealth declaration forms (known as “pothen esches”) of politicians and other public figures are expected to come under greater scrutiny, following a proposal by Democratic Left, the junior partner in the coalition. Among those currently under the microscope are Akis Tsochatzopoulos and Yiannos Papantoniou, both former defense ministers. Prosecutors are investigating the purchase of military helicopters signed off by Papantoniou in 2003 at what was allegedly an inflated price. Tsochatzopoulos, meanwhile, who has been in custody since last April on money-laundering charges, is expected to face trial soon.

Samaras has insisted in recent weeks, and emphasized in his New Year’s address, that his government will break with the impunity of the past. The government’s efforts to curb widespread tax evasion are expected to be a key point of discussion at the next Eurogroup.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras stressed over the weekend that a new tax bill, aimed at raising 2.5 billion euros over the next two years, must be voted through Parliament by the end of this week. A broader tax overhaul, introducing tougher treatment for large-scale tax evaders, is to be drafted in the spring.

Samaras is expected to be questioned about this and other reforms being pursued by Greece during scheduled talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Tuesday.

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