Cash-strapped Greece loses up to 20 billion euros a year to tax evasion and smuggling, and more than a million people and businesses are under investigation, a top finance official said on Friday.
“Tax evasion and smuggling are worth between 15 and 20 billion euros a year,” Alternate Finance Minister Tryfon Alexiadis told reporters.
The Greek Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) is currently investigating 38,000 cases involving 1.3 million people and businesses, he said.
And five years after receiving insider data on the Swiss bank holdings of over 2,000 Greeks – the so-called Lagarde list – only 136 cases have been conclusively checked, he added.
The left-wing government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has accused its conservative and socialist predecessors of protecting business friends from tax checks.
The list had been sent in 2010 to then socialist finance minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou by Christine Lagarde, International Monetary Fund chief and at the time French finance minister.
Lagarde had got it from an HSBC whistleblower.
A few years later, it emerged that three members of Papaconstantinou’s family had been on the list, but their names were excised and they escaped scrutiny.
Alexiadis said on Friday that the statute of limitations on the Lagarde list investigation was due to expire on December 31, but the government would take steps to extend the prosecution period by another year.