OPINION

Too weak to purge corruption

I was complaining yet again to National Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis the other day about the impunity of tax dodgers. «Your government,» I told him, «was the first to use the electronic data from tax and VAT declarations, and, by examining the cross-checking conducted by the IT general secretariat, I discovered some 800,000 discrepancies. The greatest discrepancies concerned 4,145 large companies. Crosschecking of invoices concerning transactions between companies revealed blatant discrepancies exceeding 100.000 euros.» «I know,» I went on, «that Dimitris Anagnostopoulos, that honest and active general secretary, gave you a list of more than 200 well-known people who evade taxes. Why don’t you make this list public and, most importantly, why don’t you impose hefty fines that will send a strong message to the market that tax evasion will no longer go unpunished?» Alogoskoufis said he will release some names in the coming days, adding that since August, when he was first informed about the tax-dodger list, he has tried to gather enough evidence to confirm the violations but he is facing problems because the various inspection agencies give conflicting opinions. The minister says the tax system is so corrupt he fears that inspectors will strike deals with the businessmen, who will be setting themselves up for ridicule. Anagnostopoulos also slammed the flawed monitoring system. He said that if cross-checking shows that company A made purchases of 500,000 euros while company B, which sold the goods, shows only 10,000 euros for the same transaction in its books, the Finance Ministry has no right to question them to find out what happened. I am afraid the government is too weak to purge the state of corruption.