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article imageOp-Ed: Greek officials still playing dirty

By Rob Edens     Sep 19, 2014 in Politics
While unwinding on the Greek sun-kissed island of Crete, embracing the clear sea and golden sand, one would never think that this is the same country that was plagued by protests, severe tax hikes and record unemployment for the past six years.
As the Greek economy is expected to make a comeback from its 24-quarter recession and reach its 2014 target of 0.6 percent growth, and as the tourist mecca returns to its booming standards, many have begun to see a light at the end of the tunnel for Europe’s problem child.
For many Greeks, however, the hope of full recovery is far beyond reach, with many pointing to the endemic corruption that still lingers on in Greek politics and society as the prime reason for their continued hardship. Despite expectations that reforms would eradicate corruption from the senior ranks of government, top-level bribery persists, and while officials and the plutocratic elite have managed to escape the crisis more or less untouched, small business owners and ordinary people have paid the heavy price. According to a Financial Times piece, the “Greek political landscape is ingrained with vested interests, endemic kleptocracy and bribery [and] politics [is] focused on public sector patronage and borrowing”.
Greece’s power clan
The pervasive nature of Greek corruption has emerged with the case of Antonis Kantas, a deputy defense minister currently on trial for money laundering, who admitted to receiving $19 million in bribes for foreign defense contracts during his five years on the job. Evidence provided by Kantas has exposed the depth of Greek government corruption even during the height of the euro crisis. During severe public spending cuts and tax hikes, the Greek parliament approved a payment of $407 million for yet to be completed German submarines. While many hoped this latest probe into high-level corruption in Greek politics is a sign of new efforts to battle the unchecked powers of the elite responsible for the crisis, this appears to be wishful thinking.
The most recent corruption escapade involves powerful businessman and owner of Olympiacos FC, Evangelos Marinakis, who has been associated with a criminal organization suspected of serious crimes including match fixing, extortion, bribery of officials and violating laws governing the use of explosives. Despite recorded telephone conversations implicating Marinakis and others in plans to bribe and extort police officers, judges and politicians, to serve their own interests and fix matches by securing loyal referees, the revelations have received little coverage in the Greek media, and indictments against Marinakis and others have yet to be issued.
These cases go to show the immunity powerful individuals have from the avenues of justice and the public’s eye as media, business and politics have long been entwined in a vicious circle where each protects the other. Marinakis himself has links to the Parapolitika newspaper, which he allegedly uses to secure positive content for Olympiacos. Moreover, his push in the media sector is set to continue as the Sports Day newspaper and sports radio station Sentra FM will soon find themselves under his control. Separate claims from journalists also show that Marinakis has used forms of intimidation on media outlets to silence potential negative stories about himself, his business, or his top-tier football club.
A vicious cycle
Even if Greece does manage to emerge from its crisis-prone debt-filled years, this may be short-lived if the structural reforms meant to cleanse the country perpetually remain on the docket. It’s no small wonder that many taxes go uncollected when the Greek political system remains rife with corruption, where favors are granted to the powerful at the cost of stifling growth and impeding small business. While the current Prime Minister Samaras has devoted a lot of attention to reviving Greece’s economy, he has failed at overhauling the corrupt political system and has consistently “retain[ed] an old-style penchant for clientelism” according to The Economist.
It is easy to comprehend why ordinary Greeks still feel the pain of the crisis, and continue to indulge in the old habits of taking or giving petty bribes in their daily lives to get what should rightfully be theirs. In a country where the state cannot provide for its population and robs it of its jobs and pensions while continuing to serve its own elitist interests, an atmosphere of mistrust and cheating is bound to prevail. As David Hume once wisely stated, “the corruption of the best things gives rise to the worse.”
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
More about Greece crisis, corruption Greece, football Greece, Bribery, Antonis Kantas
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