Most pawnshops in Athens operating illegally

Thousands of pawnshops and gold trading outlets are thriving in Attica with only around one in four set up legally and tax evasion apparently widespread, Kathimerini understands.

According to the statistics of the financial police, some 1,200 pawnshops and gold trading stores are operating legally in Attica while organizations involved in the trade and sale of gold maintain that a total of 4,500 such businesses are in operation, which would mean that some 1,300 are unlicensed.

A significant proportion of these businesses are believed to be evading their tax obligations to the state while a smaller number are thought to be involved in the smuggling of quantities of gold out of the country.

Out of 730 random inspections carried out by police in January and February of this year on pawnshops and gold trading outlets across the country, 71 were found to be guilty of transgressions, in most cases tax evasion.

In the past few weeks, police have detained entrepreneurs following checks in central Athens and in the areas of Galatsi, Halandri, Glyfada, Pallini and Aegaleo. A 36-year-old man arrested yesterday in Aegaleo, western Athens, is alleged to have been running his gold trading outlet without a license and not issuing receipts, thereby evading tax.

The Finance Ministry?s Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) has also been active in the crackdown on illegal pawnshops and gold traders which have sprung up like mushrooms over the past year or so. Earlier this month in response to a question tabled in Parliament, Finance Minister Filippos Sachinidis said that SDOE had recorded 674 violations in recent checks on 93 businesses trading in gold. The offenses were attributed to 58 of the companies. One of the most serious cases involved the sale of 135 kilograms of gold lacking purchase documents. Authorities fear that this could account for a mere fraction of the illegal trade in gold that appears to have been flourishing, along with the appearance of pawnshops, over the past year as a repercussion of the debt crisis.