Minister out over taxes

Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister Angela Gerekou resigned yesterday after allegations that her husband, a popular singer, owed 5.5 million euros in taxes, a revelation that threatened to undermine the government’s efforts to tackle tax evasion. Gerekou, a former actress, tendered her resignation yesterday evening to ensure the government would not be tarnished, according to a statement issued by Government Spokesman Giorgos Petalotis. He added that the MP for Corfu insisted she had nothing to do with the tax issue of her husband, Tolis Voskopoulos. Earlier in the day, when confronted with a report in the Eleftherotypia daily about Voskopoulos failing to settle a tax bill over the last 17 years, Petalotis said it was a personal matter. Following the publication of the allegations, Voskopoulos, who had a glittering singing and acting career in Greece spanning several decades, issued a statement denying he enjoyed special treatment by tax authorities. He said the outstanding amounts date back to a legal dispute with his previous wife (Gerekou and Voskopoulos married in 1996), which had yet to be settled. The singer said his properties had already been seized by the state and he had attempted to negotiate for the interest on the initial amount he owed to be written off. He also denied living a life of luxury, saying that he owned only one car, which was registered in 1977 and is no longer roadworthy. A little later, the Finance Ministry issued a statement confirming that five of Voskopoulos’s properties had been seized and that he is the subject of two criminal procedures. However, the ministry added that it deemed the measures taken so far to recover the debt as «not being enough,» although it blamed this on the «collapse» of the tax collecting mechanism under the previous New Democracy government. PASOK has staked much of its reputation on tackling tax evasion, which could be worth as much as 15 billion euros a year, and the fact that one of its ministers was embroiled in such a case is likely to be a cause for much embarrassment. «The government is determined to restore respect for the law and to treat all citizens equally both in respect to their rights and their obligations,» the Finance Ministry said.

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