Financial crimes squad probes 500 politicians

Financial crimes squad (SDOE) officers have begun scouring the tax records and bank accounts of 500 acting and former politicians in an effort to clamp down on graft in the higher echelons of the civil service and as part of an ongoing effort to curb widespread tax evasion.

The probes, which are focusing on the finances of mayors, prefects, parliamentarians and political advisers, were ordered after officials at the Finance Ministry found discrepancies between the income declarations and declarations of real estate assets of the 500 officials, during a cross-check run by the General Secretariat for Information Systems.

SDOE said on Thursday that the discrepancies may not necessarily arise from false income declarations and the squad will be giving the individuals the opportunity to explain the gap between declared income and assets, after which auditors will also investigate 10 years? worth of ?pothen esches? forms, on which they annually declare the source of all of their assets and any involvement they may have in businesses that are unrelated to their main source of income.

The Finance Ministry has also requested the assistance of the banks at which the officials under investigation have accounts, asking them to waive privilege and allow SDOE investigators access to the details of cash transactions, mortgages, mutual funds and stock portfolios. SDOE will also be looking into large transactions made by close relatives or business associates.

Transparency International Greece earlier this month estimated that the volume of under-the-table payments came to more than 500 million euros in 2011.

In a separate report, the World Bank found that 21.6 percent of Greek businesses pay to get procedures expedited, 55.9 percent expect to be asked for a certain something from government officials, and 14.5 percent see giving a kickback for a state contract as an absolute prerequisite.