OPINION

Souls shriveled by public sins

The translation was never the problem. The deposits recorded in the Lagarde list were written in regular numerals and spoke for themselves. As far as the names are concerned, they were in Latin characters and were easy to read and identify.

The problem with the Lagarde list arose during its transcription from CD to memory stick. Obviously, because we are nation of scholars, we were trying to confirm that George Seferis was quite right in saying that translating is one thing and transcribing quite another. As usual, it was all done with the purest of intents, as the information was apparently copied from one device to another in order to ensure the easier transfer of the electronic data. In the confusion of the transcription – a process that can addle even the most seasoned poet – the minister lost the CD and the Financial Crimes Squad lost the memory stick. What this confusion resulted in was the appearance of an as yet unidentified number of copies of the list, none of which, however, was used for the purpose for which the list was originally intended: to investigate who had put their money (and how much) in the Swiss bank in order to avoid taxation, and then to tax them.

Nothing was done for some two-and-a-half years, giving plenty of time for any tax dodgers to repatriate their funds and don the cloak of benefactor. This delay is inexcusable, even for PASOK. It is this delay that places the “objective political responsibility” on former finance ministers Giorgos Papaconstantinou (who, if he doctored the list, did so because we are not just a nation of brothers, but also of cousins) and Evangelos Venizelos. Even Venizelos’s coalition partner Fotis Kouvelis admitted as much in his recent interview with Kathimerini, and he is always very precise, though seldom laconic.

This is the real issue, or at least it should be. The political responsibilities that so clearly emerged from this delay ought to have convinced those that did wrong (irrespective of whether cronyism was involved) that they have forfeited the right to be so passionate in defending themselves.

The fact is that it has become obvious to all, including their partners in government, that they are not what they want to seem: ruthless punishers of tax evaders and champions of equality.

From the moment that their rhetoric about clamping down on tax evasion was never put into action, they have exposed themselves to criticism and shown themselves to be beneath the mandate given to them by the people. They are “souls shriveled by public sins,” as Seferis would say. As far as the conspiracy theories they like to use to justify their actions go, they had best talk to the mirror instead, because they alone have distorted their image. And now they are facing the risk that their threats of “shedding light on” and “getting to the bottom of” the affair may actually come true.