Illegal trade worth over 1.2 bln euros, Parliament is told

Revenue generated by illegal trade in Greece is estimated to be worth over 1.2 billion euros annually, or one-third of all legal trade, a merchants’ representative told Parliament yesterday. The worrying figures were delivered by Panayiotis Thomoglou of the Central Union of Greek Chambers to a parliamentary committee that is preparing legislation aimed at regulating outdoor trade by both stationary and roving vendors. Thomoglou noted that local authorities were unable to combat an established network of illegal traders operating without restraint. «Every night, especially in the center of Athens, in Koumoundourou Sq, and out in Kifissia, 18-meter trucks carrying illegal merchandise from other countries are unloaded within an hour with interested vendors there to receive. State authorities told me that they can’t control them,» Thomoglou told Parliament. Thomoglou went on to say that efforts made by the Finance Ministry’s financial crime squad, SDOE, were being overcome with relative ease by the bands of illegal vendors, most of them economic migrants. «An adviser at the Finance Ministry told me that whenever illegal vendors are checked, they talk back in Chinese, and carry no documents,» said Thomoglou. He also contended that police forces were not confiscating illegal merchandise. «There is no control mechanism whatsoever,» he said. These claims prompted a heated response from Deputy Development Minister Kimon Koulouris, one of the country’s more volatile political figures. «I will hit them hard. I will confront them. We know who they are, where their hangouts are, and the cliques, and we will fight them,» Koulouris remarked. «Checks will continue being made steadily and regularly,» he added. Dimitris Armenakis, a representative of the National Confederation of Greek Commerce, told Parliament that legal outdoor vendors had dwindled into a minority group. He described the downtown Koumoundourou and Kerameikos districts as a lawless marketplace in which economic migrants were free to operate as they chose. Members of the main opposition party, New Democracy, rejected the legislation being drafted as ineffective and unable to reach the roots of the illegal trade problem. Maria Andredaki, representing the consumer protection group INKA, noted that during the current year’s first six months, consumers lodged approximately 6,000 complaints protesting at the cost of living.

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