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In the Media

article imageOp-Ed: Evangelos Venizelos squirms over PASOK fallout from Lagarde List

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By Katerina Nikolas
Oct 5, 2012 in Politics
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Athens - Evangelos Venizelos, the former PASOK Minister of Finance, is in the political spotlight for losing the now infamous "Lagarde List." Squirming and visibly sweating, he deftly deflected criticism, claiming it was "no accident" PASOK was in the hot seat.
Always the consummate career politician the rotund Evangelis Venizelos, who married a fortune and skipped out of his mandatory military service, juggled the latest political hot potato which could be the nail in PASOK's coffin.
According to Athens News Venizelos answered his critics by declaring an "attack on PASOK was an attack on political stability." It is only natural PASOK should be under attack as the government that negotiated austerity with Greece's international creditors whilst failing to act on information contained in the "Lagarde List" which named 1,991 wealthy tax evaders that had smuggled untaxed income into a Swiss bank account.
Rather than acting on the information Venizelos, and former Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou, conveniently misplaced the relevant CD. Instead of using the information to send tax invoices to the elite Venizelos presided over pension and wage cuts.
Speaking in Parliament about the "Lagarde List" Venizelos said "I know how to lift weights and resist vulgarity" Proto Thema reported. He is well known as a skilled orator who spouts hot air while saying nothing of substance.
Something is rather fishy all round regarding the missing CD, The information it contained was provided by a bank employee who stole it. The CD was passed to Greece by Christine Lagarde when she was Finance Minster of France. Yet in her role as Head of the International Monetary Fund she never publicly referred to almost 2,000 rich tax dodgers she was aware of, unless she was referring to them when she publicly insulted Greeks in May 2012.
As Digital Journal reported Lagarde said when asked how she felt about Greek austerity "As far as Athens is concerned, I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time. All these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax."
Considering the furore her remarks caused at the time she had the perfect opportunity to reveal her inside knowledge regarding Greek government ministers having the necessary information to actually pursue rich tax dodgers, but she chose to keep her own counsel. Lagarde's IMF salary is tax free.
Venizelos is correct to note PASOK is under the spotlight. On Thursday ex-PASOK Deputy Interior Minister Leonidas Tzanis, who was one of 36 politicians under investigation by the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE), hanged himself. Ekathimerini reported Tzanis was being investigated for a "range of alleged corruption-related offenses, including tax evasion and illegal earnings."
On Wednesday PASOK suffered its first casualty from the "Lagarde List" when former Transport Minister Yiannis Ragousis resigned in disgust at the way Venizelos handled the affair. On the same day Yiannis Sbokos, a former PASOK government minister responsible for arms procurements at the Greek Defence Ministry, was arrested over his alleged involvement in a money laundering and bribe scandal.
PASOK is on shaky ground with just 33 MP's entering the current coalition government. Since the June elections disgust with the corrupt party, whom many voters blame for the current economic crisis, has resulted in a dramatic fall from grace. The party which dominated the political landscape for years had dropped to the fourth party position in latest polls, being overtaken by Golden Dawn. The latest scandal is likely to see its voter base decimated completely.
Nevertheless Venizelos remains a key player in the current round of Troika negotiations, clinging onto his position of protecting civil service jobs at the expense of taxing the poor and middle class, whilst ignoring common sense demands to pursue rich tax evaders. He remains determined to puff up his own importance on the international stage by throwing his full weight into the current round of Troika humiliation.
Quite how Venizelos intends to bear the humiliation of the latest masterstoke from Golden Dawn is yet to be seen. In a move which is sure to increase support for Golden Dawn the nationalist party on Thursday issued an indictment against Venizelos and Papaconstantinou. The indictment accuses the PASOK pair of "misconduct" and "harbouring criminals" to hide the "Lagarde List."
The full text of the complaint as reported by To Vima states that "beyond reasonable and legal obligations, and while the country sinks into vythizeto and economic abyss, both Mr. Venizelos and Mr. Papaconstantinou did not act in any test and by this means provided" immunity " suspects - perpetrators, while robbing from the Greek state, hundreds of millions or even billion in revenue from taxation."
Of course Venizelos can hide behind his political immunity, ironically an act instigated by none other than Venizelos. With the current requests for political immunity of Golden Dawn members to be lifted though it would be only fitting that the political immunity of the master Venizelos is thrown in the trash.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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