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Tax evasion scrutinized

 Prosecutors check new Lagarde list as troika calls for more effort to nab dodgers

Greece’s two financial prosecutors are expected to confirm by the end of the week whether the latest version of the so-called Lagarde list of Greeks who had deposits at the Geneva branch of HSBC is the same as the one they had been investigating over the last few weeks.

Grigoris Peponis and Spyros Mouzakitis were handed the new list after Finance Ministry officials traveled to Paris last Thursday to collect it from French authorities. Since October, the judicial officials have been probing a list of some 2,000 savers provided by PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos.

The Socialist chief said he had the list on a memory stick from his time as finance minister. Venizelos, his predecessor Giorgos Papaconstantinou and two former heads of the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) have been questioned over the failure to investigate the list for possible tax evaders.

“The lists are being crosschecked name by name, amount by amount and if any differences are found, political and judicial responsibilities will be sought,” a source with knowledge of the prosecutors’ work told Kathimerini.

SYRIZA asked the government to explain why it took three months to obtain a new copy from Paris. Leftist MP Nadia Valavani referred to unconfirmed media reports that the latest version of the list had about 600 more names than the one prosecutors were given in October.

The issue of tax evasion has gained even more prominence after a troika report this week indicated that Greece was slipping far behind its targets for tackling dodgers. It said that only 567 out of a planned 1,300 checks on wealthy suspected tax evaders had been carried out by the end of September, bringing in 29 million euros, and that 1.1 billion euros of overdue taxes had been collected, rather than 2 billion.

The troika report says that only about 20 percent of some 53 billion euros owed by firms and individuals is realistically collectible. Greece’s lenders propose that the government change the law so it has the power to immediately draw money from the accounts of tax evaders.

The government has also been urged to hire 100 more inspectors to check wealthy suspected tax dodgers, with the focus being on those who owe between 300,000 and 1 million euros. This group owed a total of 3.1 billion euros.

ekathimerini.com , Wednesday December 26, 2012 (16:10)  
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