Punishing the Greek Madoffs

An issue that repeatedly comes up when I talk to friends or people in the street sharing the same anxieties is: What should be done in a situation where society has every right to be angry at that narrow circle of politicians and businesspeople in Greece who squandered the public purse and who are now watching the disaster unfold from a safe distance having stashed away their money in Swiss bank accounts and offshore companies.

One would expect that our democracy would use all the means at its disposal, including the financial crimes squad, the judiciary and the parliamentary committees, to locate the culprits.

However, none of them seems to have done their job — except perhaps in the case of the Aspis insurance group.

There are many excuses for this, but none will assuage people?s burgeoning indignation. The predicament is known also to officials of the so-called troika, Greece?s international creditors, who would be pleased to see some Greek Madoffs being sent to jail. Sure, it is wrong to think that the 340 billion euros of debt all went into the pockets of corrupt politicians and cunning businessmen — but a lot of it certainly did.

It?s risky, however, to sidestep the democratic institutions and attempt to attribute justice by means of public attacks, media recommendations, as it were, or other unchecked methods. But when you reach that stage, you cannot be sure whether the judge is himself a crook, whether he has personal differences with anyone he accuses of being a crook.

Socialist PASOK and the conservative New Democracy party both carry most of the blame for the current mess in this country, but at the same time they are presented with a huge opportunity. If they joined forces and supported each other in cleaning up four to five big cases of fraud and corruption, they would certainly buy some time from the people in light of the difficult decisions ahead. However, they must first shed their partisan loyalties and support each other in the face of pressure and blackmail.

If this country?s democracy fails to punish any of those dirty politicians, the people?s simmering anger will gradually grow into a giant steamroller that could wreck our political system as we know it.

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