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Journalist Arrested In Greece For Publishing List of Possible Tax-Evaders

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the naughty-list dept.

Privacy 344

kyriacos writes "The Greek government is charging journalist Kostas Vaxevanis with violation of the data privacy law for publishing a list of about 2,000 Greeks who hold accounts with the HSBC bank in Switzerland. While more and more austerity measures are being taken against the people of Greece, there is still no investigation of tax evasion for the people on this list by the government. The list has been in the possession of the Greek government since 2010."

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O !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799411)

K !!

He should be jailed (5, Funny)

multiben (1916126) | about 2 years ago | (#41799415)

Evading tax is every Greeks' right and what has made Greece the economic powerhouse it is today.

Re:He should be jailed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799489)

So funny and so sad at the same time.

Re:He should be jailed (5, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 2 years ago | (#41799609)

My first thought was, "Who needs a list? Just pick up a copy of the Athens Telephone Book."

Re:He should be jailed (5, Funny)

Sulphur (1548251) | about 2 years ago | (#41799669)

My first thought was, "Who needs a list? Just pick up a copy of the Athens Telephone Book."

What an unorthodox use of mathematical symbols.

Re:He should be jailed (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799701)

Watching CNN and reading the New York Times is every Americans' right and what has made USA the unbrainwashed powerhouse it is today.

Re:He should be jailed (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799821)

Damn right. Fox viewers are the smartest ... er wait

Re:He should be jailed (3, Informative)

Dahamma (304068) | about 2 years ago | (#41799891)

You joke, but my Greek friend (who's family has a house in Athens that they probably don't pay taxes one) freely admitted tax evasion is practically a national pastime in Greece. They really do consider it not only a right, but almost an obligation.

And you wonder how the Olympics almost bankrupted the government? Well, that attitude towards taxes makes the statement "oh, all of the tax revenues from increased tourism and business in Greece will more than make up for the expenses" a bit hard to back up...

Get out of Greece now. (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about 2 years ago | (#41799429)

If you're in Greece and don't already have your money out of the country, you're an idiot. This isn't about taxes. It's about Greece threatening to leave the euro area, switch to a local currency (bring back the drachma!), and printing money to get out of their financial disaster. People in Greece, as EU residents, have no obligation to participate in this. The EU encourages cross-border banking. So everybody with any significant cash is moving it to German, French, or Swiss banks in case the axe falls.

Re:Get out of Greece now. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799501)

Yes everybody pull your money out because that will make it better.

Re:Get out of Greece now. (0, Troll)

mrmeval (662166) | about 2 years ago | (#41799623)

It means that the Greek government can't print the smart ones poorer. Quadruple the currency and you've reduced the worth of the paper you're holding by 75%. The US dollar is a fine example of this they have however diluted it over such a long time it was not as noticeable.

"Fiat currencies always trend down."
http://budwood.hubpages.com/hub/US-Dollar-Purchasing-Power [hubpages.com]

Gold, while not a good investment is a hedge against such inflation.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/survivalbros/5160598974/ [flickr.com]

 

Re:Get out of Greece now. (4, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 2 years ago | (#41799693)

The irony about gold is that the current high price is the result of an artificial bubble maintained by gold sellers pushing the staying power of gold. You didn't think those advertisements telling you to buy gold were for your own good, did you? No, they are to drive the price of gold high and keep it that way.

Re:Get out of Greece now. (4, Insightful)

Smallpond (221300) | about 2 years ago | (#41799843)

The ads are to hold the price up long enough for the early purchasers to convert to dollars.

Re:Get out of Greece now. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799919)

The ads are to hold the price up long enough for the early purchasers to convert to yuan.

FTFY

Re:Get out of Greece now. (5, Insightful)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about 2 years ago | (#41799905)

There is a legitimate point that inflation is what Greece, Spain, Italy and Portual need. Now ideally they would get there from a eurozone inflation of target of 4% and ease through this gradually (as the US generally has), but the other option will be for the Eurozone to break up, and they would likely be first to be kicked out (unless the germans leave first, which would help too).

Inflation devalues debt. Since one persons debt is anothers holding you can see the issue. But of course most people don't have a lot of money in cash assets. They have houses and stocks and so on.

Rightly, what he's complaining about is that reducing the value of a currency can make your labour worth less. This is true, and tied in concept to something in economics called nominal wage rigidity. Basically no one wants to take a face value pay cut. So to make your economy more competitive (more exports, more tourists, less imports, less of your people touring elsewhere) you want to reduce your own costs, and one way to do that is inflation.

Greece is essentially a balance of payments problem, all of the euro area is, combined with a monetary but not a fiscal union. If it wasn't for defence, medicare and medicaid and social security being *federal* in the US a lot of states would be in deep trouble right now. But because relatively rich areas keep sending money to poorer areas (especially areas that are poor because of the housing bubble and the now market bubble). What the greeks need is to decrease their costs relative to germany to attract investment, or get direct payments from germany. Either would work. The first, when in the Euro, is a mess, the Euro area could aim for a larger inflation target, essentially they'd decrease costs against everyone else at least, Greece might not be more competitive against germany but it would at least be more competitive against the US and Japan and China. The latter, which is essentially what the germans are talking about, European Federalism, seems to be a non starter politically.

So sure, he's shilling gold, and gold isn't a hedge against anything, it's just a metal that varies wildly in price, in part based on fears about inflation. Small persistent inflation (fiat currencies trend down) is a feature, not a defect of the system. But there's a kernel of truth to the fact that a lot of people in europe are looking at greece and figuring they want to having their money somewhere else, because if the Euro area starts kicking people out rather than actually solving problems a lot of people are going to get really fucked in the short term, and there they really might be better with bars of metal than cash. Incidentally, as other people have pointed out, this reality is why the barter system is picked back up, and is preventing major investment, so between that and austerity greece is only going to get worse unless there's some serious credible move towards an actual european solution, and given that, bars of any metal, even iron might be better than Greece Euros.

Re:Get out of Greece now. (2)

ToadProphet (1148333) | about 2 years ago | (#41800069)

You didn't think those advertisements telling you to buy gold were for your own good, did you? No, they are to drive the price of gold high and keep it that way.

The folks that are swayed to buy gold by a 30 second TV spot aren't even a blip in the market. There's tens of thousands of tens in government reserves around the world, and individual investors are likely many decimal places away from even being noteworthy.

Re:Get out of Greece now. (5, Insightful)

MtHuurne (602934) | about 2 years ago | (#41799511)

The difference between a Swiss bank and a bank in another European country is that Swiss banks don't share information about the account balance with the governments of their respective clients. So while having a Swiss bank account doesn't necessarily mean someone is evading taxes, the vast majority of the people evading taxes will use Swiss bank accounts.

Re:Get out of Greece now. (3, Insightful)

Zapotek (1032314) | about 2 years ago | (#41799595)

Maybe in the good'ol days, but unless my memory fails me, they crumbled a few years ago under international pressure in order to assist in investigating tax evaders.

PS. The "good'ol days" part was added for comedic effect, I'm actually Greek and have been paying taxes since I got my first semi-real job at 17.

Re:Get out of Greece now. (3, Informative)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 2 years ago | (#41799655)

They crumbled for new money.

If you have a numbered account (opened before 1950 IIRC) your family secrets are still safe with the Swiss.

Re:Get out of Greece now. (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 years ago | (#41800135)

Yup, now a days, you go to the Cayman Islands.

Re:Get out of Greece now. (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about 2 years ago | (#41799783)

The difference between a Swiss bank and a bank in another European country is that Swiss banks don't share information about the account balance with the governments of their respective clients. So while having a Swiss bank account doesn't necessarily mean someone is evading taxes, the vast majority of the people evading taxes will use Swiss bank accounts.

That's true. They're also useful for stashing stolen money and the proceeds of illegal drug transactions.

Re:Get out of Greece now. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799519)

It's about Greece threatening to leave the euro area

Threatening? the Euro zone is threatened by Greece STAYING in the Euro area. Leaving it will be the best for everyone else, but it will be the hardest for the greek people as they will actually be expected to pay back their loans.

Seriosly, big finance like this is so screwed up that even the most pro-capitalist can't defend it.

EU politicians are caught asking for 50 million dollar (euro) bribes , the latest one for the tobacco EU top dog. Serious money that.

How much do you think Greece paid...pays?

Re:Get out of Greece now. (1, Offtopic)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 2 years ago | (#41799591)

WTF does any of this mess have to do with capitalism?

Seriosly, big finance like this is so screwed up that even the most pro-government run economy can't defend it.

Re:Get out of Greece now. (3, Insightful)

Dahamma (304068) | about 2 years ago | (#41799933)

True - if it were up to capitalism the government would not be int the state they are in. A lot of citizens might be homeless, underfed, and sick, and Greeks rioting in the streets, but the government wouldn't be broke.

Then again, apparently Greeks will riot in the streets either way, so in the end it may not have made much of a difference.

Re:Get out of Greece now. (3, Insightful)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about 2 years ago | (#41799961)

The euro isn't threatened by Greece staying or going, they're too small to actually matter much. The Euro is threatened by what caused Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain to be in serious messes, which is the same problem that will eventually chip away at all of the countries that aren't germany - germany is the strongest economy in the Euro area, and the biggest, so they will be dragged down by everyone else eventually, but Euro policy rests on german exports.

The Euro was constructed with the idea that they would get a currency and settle the political and fiscal (EU budget powers basically) issues later. Because the Uk wasn't going along with one provision or another, other people wanted their own deals, no one really wanted to transfer power to Brussels, because, as you rightfully point out, they're not apparently doing a very good job.

Unfortunately, that system isn't sustainable, it happened to hit Greece, and Ireland and Spain and Portugal first, but the problem is fundamental to the EU and Euro area, and is not going to go away if greece is gone. Greece leaving the Euro area would be good for greece ultimately, though obviously the transition would be... unpleasant.

Re:Get out of Greece now. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799581)

Local currencies are bad how, exactly? It seems that participating in the euro has brought forced austerity measures and foreigners dictating local policy, wages, benefits, etc. When somebody else controls your money, it matters rather little who runs your government.

I mean, it's not like, to dip into recent history, the ex leaders of Iraq and Libya suddenly became bad guys. They were bad guys for years and we didn't care, other than the occasional one sided ass whipping they got once in a while. Now, when they decided to make moves that would make them independent of the US dollar, all of the sudden THEN they become problems worth dealing with.

That doesn't matter, though, because while I'd love to blame that on Fox News, which is deserving of so much condemnation, the fact is that no US news source with a mass following reports on these things. So you end up with a population ignorant of why the rest of the world hates us, which is susceptible to such claptrap as "the terrorists hate us for our freedom" and other such nonsense like that. It really is all about money, and the banksters don't care who gets trampled on as long as they win. Watch what's going to happen in Greece if they seriously get someone in charge who really has the potential and the willingness to leave the euro.

Re:Get out of Greece now. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799635)

Shouldn't you be out occupying a Starbucks?

You are wrong on so many points it's absurd. Greece has had 30 years to get its finances in order, but corruption prevailed. Greece wants to stay in the Euro zone because leaving it would collapse the last of the international trade they do.
The best thing for Greece in the short term would be bankrupcy because that would clear the debt, but in the long term it wouldn't change anything about its abysmal economy and the endemic tax dodging and would mean leaving the Eurozone. Also its creditors won't get paid which shifts the economic burden onto the rest of the world. Also there is no need to move the cash out of Greece, because it was moved to Swizerland (which is not part of the European banking union by the way) long ago.

With such a lack of understanding of basic economics in the world, it's no wonder the whole house of cards is on the brink of collapse.

Re:Get out of Greece now. (4, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 2 years ago | (#41799673)

Actually getting out of the Euro would probably be a smart thing, as they will frankly NEVER be able to pay back the loans and most likely the people will revolt over the measures being imposed on them in return for the loans.

Whether you agree or disagree with the direction Greece is headed you simply can't force the people to accept what essentially was a crooked deal between the large banks like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs (Why am I not surprised that GS was involved? I swear they are Wolfram & Hart, and I wouldn't be shocked if their board was demons in Gucci suits) and the former government.

Re:Get out of Greece now. (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about 2 years ago | (#41799767)

I don't understand how going back to the drachma would help them out of their current debt situation. Their debts are enumerated in euros so they have to pay them back in euros. If the switch to drachmas and then inflate the drachmas they'll just have to trade that many more drachmas to buy the euros they'll need to pay off the debts.

But I can see that it's to one's advantage to have one's wealth counted in euros, which are more stable than any re-established currency is likely to be.

Re:Get out of Greece now. (3, Informative)

Alomex (148003) | about 2 years ago | (#41799851)

Their debts are enumerated in euros so they have to pay them back in euros.

Nope, they can simply default on the debt and pay it back in Drachmas, like many other countries have done in the past.

Re:Get out of Greece now. (4, Informative)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 2 years ago | (#41799945)

The folks at The Economist can explain that in more detail: http://www.economist.com/node/21555923 [economist.com]

Although the Greek government is close to running a primary budget surplus (ie, before interest payments) it still needs further official loans to honour obligations due this year, notably redemptions of bonds held by the European Central Bank (ECB), which were excluded from the restructuring in March that slashed the face value of €200 billion of debt held by private bondholders by over half. If the lifeline from the EFSF were cut off by its creditor nations, Greece would be unable to pay those debts. And if the ECB makes it a matter of principle not to lend (or permit the Bank of Greece to lend) to banks against collateral consisting of bonds and guarantees from a government in default, then it in turn would cut Greece off. Greek banks currently rely upon some €130 billion of central-bank funding. Without the ECB money the entire banking system would collapse. If the flow of money was reduced, and the conditions it is lent on tightened, the Greek government might start to issue IOUs to its workers to make up the shortfall. If the flow stopped, leaving the banks no euros to pay out, a new currency would be the only alternative.

The government would redenominate domestic bank assets and liabilities into drachma and insist that domestic contracts, such as pay and prices, be also set in drachma. Capital controls would be necessary because the drachma would immediately fall against the euro, possibly losing 50% or more of its value in a trice.

In the short term Greece's economic agony—its economy shrank by 13% from 2007 to 2011 and is expected to contract by almost 5% this year—would intensify. A precipitous exit without preparation would leave the country without notes and coin. The surrounding chaos would paralyse economic activity, causing consumers and businesses to stop spending. Economists at UBS, a Swiss bank, have estimated that the cost of a catastrophic exit might amount to 40-50% of GDP in the first year.

That figure assumes that Greece would have to leave the EU as well as the euro, and thus lose access to the single market. On strict legal grounds that may be the case, in part because exit requires capital controls, and those controls are illegal under EU treaties. In practice European policymakers are making it clear they would do their utmost to keep Greece in the EU. Assuming such helpfulness, Mark Cliffe, an economist at ING, a Dutch bank, reckons that the effect would be less. He puts the first-year extra loss of output at 7.5%.

Re:Get out of Greece now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799903)

Currency has nothing to do with the crises. Its debt. Not paying your share makes the situation worse on those who are honest. Its time to pay up. It doesnt matter whether you agree. Fact is your bill is due and it doesnt matter at this point what already happened.

Well... (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799431)

while the government is in possesion of a list of people those people in turn are in possesion of the government.

Re:Well... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799573)

Actually, the people in this list are the government and their relatives, families and friends. We are probably the most corrupted country in this universe, and all the parallels. Someone please drop as a bomb or something

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799643)

You have a long way to go until you hit the level of the CIS states, bro!

Tax records (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799447)

Tax records are public documents in Finland. In fact, they are published as an annual bestseller (two pieces of information are listed: the reported annual income and the total tax).

The logic is the same as with court records. The citizens need to be able to trust that the tax system treats everybody fairly.

Re:Tax records (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799469)

Kind of same with Sweden.

Re:Tax records (-1, Troll)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | about 2 years ago | (#41799533)

Hey, sounds like a great way to research who you should rob.

Re:Tax records (3, Insightful)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 2 years ago | (#41799601)

The rich keep their money safely in banks. You want to rob criminals who don't pay taxes and hence don't keep their money in banks.

Re:Tax records (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799715)

There are other things to rob besides money. For instance, the rich might use their money to buy nice stuff.

Re:Tax records (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 2 years ago | (#41799761)

Which will get you 10% of fair value.

Most criminals are stupid. After the time they serve they would have done better at McDonald's.

Re:Tax records (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799797)

yet another example of how, in Scandinavia, we're actually able to have nice things without it being ruined

Re:Tax records (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799875)

> Hey, sounds like a great way to research who you should rob.

Ferengi.

Re:Tax records (-1, Flamebait)

udachny (2454394) | about 2 years ago | (#41799817)

Yeah, Finland is like a prison where you are forced to take shit while everybody is watching. I wonder what happens to the people in Finland who are not brainwashed into this collectivist nightmare, do they leave or do they end up working in some form of underground economy?

Re:Tax records (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 2 years ago | (#41799877)

How much do they tax vodka again?

I know what my job would be.

Re:Tax records (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799889)

They might, and I'm just suggesting this, actually like it in their brainwashed collectivist nightmare, because it might not be as nightmarish as you seem to think.

Re:Tax records (-1, Troll)

udachny (2454394) | about 2 years ago | (#41799909)

I am not talking about the brainwashed, I am asking a legitimate question about people who do not agree with any of it, surely, no government in the world was able to brainwash their entire population. I expect a minimum of 5% of Finns to be completely and utterly disgusted with their country of birth because of this rampant collectivism. I am expect that some leave and some do figure out how to work and live outside of the system while pretending to be part of it.

Re:Tax records (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41800115)

The "collectivism" is deeply ingrained in the Finnish political culture. While the Americans generally detest the government, the Finns are outraged when the government isn't making them happy.

We just had municipal elections today. One of the themes of the political debate was how well the government should take care of the elderly. One of the main parties pledged 7 nurses for every 10 senior citizens in city elder homes. Nobody was talking about the taxes needed to finance this guarantee.

Re:Tax records (2)

udachny (2454394) | about 2 years ago | (#41800137)

I wish them luck, but you are not following me, I am not talking about the majority of Finns, I am wondering about that minority that do not agree with the system. I don't care how much the majority is brainwashed into it, how it is 'ingrained', all that, I am genuinely interested in the other side of it, those who detest, dissent, disagree, do you understand my question? It's likely that you are not the person to answer it, I am posing that question, it's out there, somebody who understands it may leave a comment.

Re:Tax records (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799895)

I haven't heard people complaining about the openness of the tax system.

But let me shock you some more: most fines are not specified in absolute amounts. Instead, they are specified as percentages of your reported annual income. When the police stop you for doing 20 km/h over the speed limit, they pull out their smartphones and look up your previous year's tax filing to figure out the amount of your fine. Some fortunate individuals have had to pay well over a hudred thousand dollars for speeding.

Again, there's logic there. While in the U.S. you are sometimes ordered to do community service, in Finland you don't have to take time off your precious profession. Instead, the government rules that for a number of days, you work for the community in your present job. In other words, the government confiscates the wages you earned during those days. You get a lesson but your career is not jeopardized.

Re:Tax records (0, Troll)

udachny (2454394) | about 2 years ago | (#41799937)

You are not shocking me, I am aware of this, it's similar to Sweden in the way they discriminate against people. This is completely lawlessness, discriminating on the level of the judicial system out in the open, not applying the law equally. Thus my question still remains, if any of you, those who are either working outside of the legal structure or left the country because of this collectivist nonsense are reading /., you can post something as AC. It's not a fact that anybody like that is reading or that they will see this comment, but hey, I am just curious.

Re:Tax records (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799979)

Yeah, Finland is like a prison where you are forced to take shit while everybody is watching. I wonder what happens to the people in Finland who are not brainwashed into this collectivist nightmare, do they leave or do they end up working in some form of underground economy?

Hell, I'd like that.

EVERYONE'S tax returns be published.

I'd also like it so the the ONLY way a government could collect ANY taxes would be to levy them against individuals and ONLY individuals, and that there could be NO withholding or similar. Everybody has to actually get their money in their hands and then experience the wonderful feeling of actually PAYING their taxes.

Oh, yeah, and EVERYBODY pays at least a token amount - say $10/year or something paltry. And there are NO refunds - once you pay it, it's gone for good.

Then we could have a REAL debate over the kind of government the public REALLY is willing to pay for.

Re:Tax records (-1, Troll)

udachny (2454394) | about 2 years ago | (#41800059)

A token amount is not good enough. There is a reason that in USA the Constitution specified that the taxes that can be collected have to be either direct apportioned or excise. There is a genius behind that decision that very few realize. (and of-course it had to be broken in order to allow the insane growth of government past 1913).

1. Direct apportioned taxes, capitation and other direct apportioned taxes tax (a tax that applies to a person directly but is apportioned to the States). This means that if the federal government wants to raise taxes, it has to say by how much and it has to then use census data and depending on the populations of different States, apportion them their share. So if California has 12% of population, it would be responsible for 12% of this tax increase. Direct apportioned taxes were introduced by the founders this way in order to try and prevent 2 things:
        a. Fraud in census data, that's because a State could overstate its population to send more Congressmen, Senators to the Washington.
        b. US founders did not like direct taxes, they added that direct taxes had to be apportioned specifically so that poorer States would not always vote for tax increases. If the direct tax is not apportioned, then poorer States would always vote to increase taxes upon richer States, creating wealth redistribution and incentives to increase taxes on the rich (exactly the rhetoric by the government nowadays, that is so much supported by the poorer people). Apportioning direct taxes prevents this problem, because then direct taxes would have to be paid by poorer and wealthier states only depending on the size of their population.

2. Uniform excise taxes. These are indirect, so they can be collected from a person not directly, but through a merchant for example, such as sales taxes. Uniformity requirement means that there should not be special dealings when introducing them, people shouldn't be forced to pay different sales tax depending on their location or religion or race or whatever.

These types of taxes do not discriminate against people, these types of taxes do not make an assumption that the government owns your entire productive output, your income, and then it only makes a decision as to how much to steal from you in income taxes and figuring out these numbers attempting to maximize government profit.

Income taxes are a disaster in every way, they are morally objectionable, you become property of the State, which can levy any income taxes on you and you can't avoid them by not participating in transactions for example. Income taxes reduce savings and investment and so they are disastrous for the economy and income taxes allow the government to be funded based on your productivity rather than your spending, and that's a huge problem, because it changes the status of government, from being a spending item, something that you have to budget for, just like for everything else. This would mean that government could grow or shrink, depending on your spending patterns and this means that in bad times the government would not have an option but to shrink as it must, because gov't is a luxury item, and like all other items you should be able to cut back on it.

By allowing the gov't to tax your income, you give it ability to take away all of your productivity and only leave you with the bare minimum to survive the year with.

Actually the wars that USA fought against monarchy were fought over tiny taxes, 3%? The serfs only had to pay 25% of their earnings to their masters.

If you count all the taxes that people have to pay (in the upper brackets of-course), including the spread between corporate and other earnings (and not counting sale an property taxes), this can get higher than 90%, if you count the death taxes as well.

--

No no, a token tax would not do it, it would take a flat rate tax applied equally to everybody to make them appreciate what taxes really are.

the real scandal (4, Informative)

etash (1907284) | about 2 years ago | (#41799455)

That's not the real scandal, or should I say is part of it. The real scandal is that the list has been in the government's hands for a couple of years and it has done nothing about it ( it's the same list leaked by a swiss man, and bought and used by the german, US and other governments to collect taxes ). Ex-ministers are saying that a) either they couldn't use the list because the data was not acquired legally or b) we gave the list to the greek IRS but they didn't do anything. There is even an ex-minister ( current leader of pasok ) who admitted he took the usb stick with the list to his home after he resigned from his position.

Re:the real scandal (1)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | about 2 years ago | (#41799561)

I'm not sure why it's news that someone was arrested for violating the law. Just because they're a journalist doesn't mean they can violate privacy laws on a whim.

I'm sure not everyone on the list is guilty of evading taxes, yet the journalist painted everyone with the same brush.

Re:the real scandal (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799675)

I'm not sure why it's news that someone was arrested for violating the law.

You might want to rethink that. If half the population doesn't agree with a law then the law is a sham. If he was arrested only to protect certain people it is a sham. Even if not half, I would wager around 1/3 of people do not think this journalist should've been arrested. We only get one shot at this life, and I personally don't give a shit about laws that only serve to protect the powerful. And for some hyperbole, see Rosa Parks.

Re:the real scandal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799747)

If half the population doesn't agree with a law then the law is a sham.

Or half the population are clueless idiots.

Re:the real scandal (1)

multiben (1916126) | about 2 years ago | (#41800107)

If half the population doesn't agree with a law then the law is a sham.

That is such a dumb statement. I would wager (based on no more evidence than your own wager was based) that half the population wouldn't pay taxes if it was left up to them. Does that mean the entire tax system is a sham?

Re:the real scandal (1)

memnock (466995) | about 2 years ago | (#41799803)

I think by mentioning that the list was already in the Greek govt's hands for a couple of years means this guy was acting as a kind of whistleblower, or possibly working with a whistleblower. IF that was the point, then acting out of a moral obligation to reveal evaders when the govt can't support itself makes this arrest appear immoral, perhaps somewhat despicable.

Just conjecture on my part. Honestly, I don't know why this particular "journalist arrested" story made it to /. Maybe though it's the fault of the summary to given enough detail that would really elicit attention.

Re:the real scandal (4, Insightful)

Raenex (947668) | about 2 years ago | (#41799563)

That's not the real scandal, or should I say is part of it. The real scandal is that the list has been in the government's hands for a couple of years and it has done nothing about it

In other words, the second and third sentences in the summary:

"While more and more austerity measures are being taken against the people of Greece, there is still no investigation of tax evasion for the people on this list by the government. The list has been in the possession of the Greek government since 2010."

Re:the real scandal (3, Insightful)

udachny (2454394) | about 2 years ago | (#41799765)

I don't know if anybody on /. understands the principle of austerity, but it seems that most of the planet doesn't understand it.

Austerity is reduction of spending by government, reduction of size of government. The checks that governments sends are supposed to be reduced or completely cut, stopped. The government cannot afford payments, the people cannot afford the government.

That's what austerity is or should be.

Instead the politicians have convinced huge number of people that austerity is supposed to be the same government (or even bigger), and the people are supposed to be taxed to pay for it.

What is actually happening is not austerity, it's theft. The banks that made all sorts of loans to governments of Greece want their money back and the political elite of nations is cooperating in this endeavour, raising taxes and selling off various properties to pay the loans. This is done to maintain the fiction that government debt is 'risk free'. It was always fiction, government debt is at the minimum as risky as the rest of the economy, but it's actually worse, because governments never decrease their spending, even when they cannot actually be afforded by their people.

The people who have holdings in foreign companies and banks outside of their countries are obviously those with the most foresight and those who understand that you do not hold all of your eggs in one basket.

Of-course the fact that government is not pursuing people on that list can mean many different things, for example it can mean that there are many politically connected people on that list.

Also there is another angle to this: the money is outside of the country, who says that Greek government has any claim to it at all? This journalist thinks that these people aren't paying taxes in Greece by hiding money elsewhere, but Greece is not USA or Canada, who want to tax your foreign earnings. Most countries of the world don't engage in such practices, only the 'most free' do.

Of-course the reality is that people who are truly productive and make plenty of money are always a target for the proletariat and the class war, they should be ready to protect themselves under these circumstances (many should have left Greece some time ago and many did).

Re:the real scandal (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41800049)

Working and generating wealth is different from owning property and making money from it. And you can't do the latter without someone doing the former. If a lot of the (ha!) "truly productive" check-out and leave Greece it would probably be a net gain for Greece.

Re:the real scandal (2)

udachny (2454394) | about 2 years ago | (#41800077)

If a lot of the (ha!) "truly productive" check-out and leave Greece it would probably be a net gain for Greece.

- yeah, because the world is full of examples where countries with only poor people became great economic engines, pulling everybody out of dirt (and doing it without actually turning their entire populations into slave labor and the nation into a meat grinder).

Working and generating wealth is different from owning property and making money from it.

- it's called savings and investments. You can save your money, invest it and it works. Yes, the money works and you allowed it to work by collecting it and not spending it, that's why economies need savers - to allow investments to occur and allow businesses to have access to investors.

Re:the real scandal (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799589)

That's not the real scandal, or should I say is part of it. The real scandal is that the list has been in the government's hands for a couple of years and it has done nothing about it ( it's the same list leaked by a swiss man, and bought and used by the german, US and other governments to collect taxes ). Ex-ministers are saying that a) either they couldn't use the list because the data was not acquired legally or b) we gave the list to the greek IRS but they didn't do anything. There is even an ex-minister ( current leader of pasok ) who admitted he took the usb stick with the list to his home after he resigned from his position.

An investigation into 2,000 people, followed by lengthy court cases against (presumably) people who can afford a strong legal defence, followed possibly by jail terms... that is going to cost a ton of money.

Greece has much bigger problems on it's hands than tax evasion. They are over 500 billion dollars in debt, and catching a handful of people evading tax is not going to solve that. All it will do is waste even more of their precious tax revenue (which, FWIW, mostly comes from sources other than personal income tax).

Re:the real scandal (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799727)

Greece is one big scam.

Objectively, the best thing for Greece would be a bankruptcy. Then, they would perform an internal devaluation by slashing everybody's pay by a significant percentage. The country would become competitive, save the jobs, attract investment and tourists since they would be solvent again. Most prices would come down accordingly as well. Also, the reckless German lenders would get a lesson: you can't expect the government to bail you out of your risky investments.

But the Greek government has a better deal in mind. They are holding the German banks by the balls by threatening to go bankrupt. The banks then pressure the German government to buy the debts and "lend" billions of euros to Greece to make loan payments. A good part of those billions, just like the billions before, land in the ruling families' bank accounts in Switzerland.

In the meanwhile the Greek government imposes cruel and counterproductive austerity measures on their populace, who will blame the Germans for their misery. The rich Greeks laugh all the way to the Swiss bank.

The same thing happened in the US (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799497)

Obama promised they would go after big tax cheats if they only knew who they were.

Obama promised whistle-blowers would be protected - even paid a reward.

In 2 seperate well documented cases, people working on computers in Swiss banks copied and provided huge lists of US plutocrats including many congressmen, former presidents and law enforcement personel. In some cases, hundreds of millions of dollars had been deposited in accounts of people who only officially make $120K a year.

So were these guys protected and paid a reward by the Obama administration?

Of course not - they were chased around the world like Osama and then dissappeared into solitary confinement without lawyers like enemy combatants.

That's the truth about corruption at the very highest levels in all the major countries, by all the major parties.

Government is organized crime.

Re:The same thing happened in the US (2, Insightful)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | about 2 years ago | (#41799521)

So you expect us to take your word for it?

How ironic that you argue against opacity with an opaque claim you can't support.

Re:The same thing happened in the US (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799637)

So you expect us to take your word for it?

How ironic that you argue against opacity with an opaque claim you can't support.

That word you used, ironic, I don't think it means what you think it means.

Re:The same thing happened in the US (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | about 2 years ago | (#41799965)

"Poignantly contrary to what was expected or intended"

e.g. criticizing someone for a lack of transparency while yourself being non-transparent. The usage was correct.

Swiss Accounts are Illegal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799499)

Damage done.. All except for cutting his balls off.

I know a man who was sued for wiretapping in PA (0)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 2 years ago | (#41799525)

I know a man... There was a woman who was threatening him with murder, and boasted about murdering someone in another state. The woman came in and stole a bunch of this man's possessions when he was away from his house. This man tape recorded her confessing to the murder in the other state and threatening him with murder too. When he went to police, they charged him for violating the wiretap laws and did nothing to her!

I just think these wiretap laws are to protect elite people from being charged with shady deals. The government constantly wiretaps us. We should be able to record our conversations in case of threats.

PA is part of Greece? (1)

acidfast7 (551610) | about 2 years ago | (#41799559)

FYI, different countries have different laws.

Re:I know a man who was sued for wiretapping in PA (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799687)

Not just wiretap laws; not just privacy laws, even; ALL laws are made to defend the elite. Privacy, property, imaginary property, tax, etc.; EVERY single area of law is either inherently geared towards those making or possessing unusually large amounts of money (tax/property) or those with better defenses (everything else), which they got, lo and behold, from being substantially wealthier than those they are suing/being sued by.

It's complete BS. The idea that the west is "free" is entirely absurd when the justice system steamrolls so haphazardly anyone of normal income whenever a billionaire is involved. We live in a corporatist west (not just one country), moving on some fronts towards a fascist one. It is utterly shameful.

Re:I know a man who was sued for wiretapping in PA (1)

brit74 (831798) | about 2 years ago | (#41799743)

Are you suggesting that the woman in your story was one of the powerful elite?

I don't know exactly what the laws are, but isn't it illegal to use illegally-obtained evidence in court? I assume this is to prevent the police from using illegal means to collect evidence. Like I said, I don't know exactly what the laws are, but it seems like this might be pertinent in this case.

Re:I know a man who was sued for wiretapping in PA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799935)

The only state in which it is illegal to record the conversation unless all parties are aware of it ("two-party notification" state) is Massachusetts. The 49 other states allow one of the parties involved in the conversation to record it without notifying the other ("one-party notification" state). The police can always be recorded in the course of their public duty and the recorder is on non-private land (and even on private land if the landowner does not object), and the police can record anybody without notification with a court order or a warrant. So the guy had to have been living in Massachusetts for this story to be real, although the act of recording her would not be a crime where she was living (assuming the story is correct and she was not also in Massachusetts).

He deserves it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799541)

This guy deserves every bit of it.

You don't just go around accusing people of criminal activity. Most likely there are people on that list who are acting within the law, and now everyone is going to treat them like criminals.

let me ask you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799585)

why you need to specifically have a swiss account and not say a more close to home one ?
why do you require a bank account that wont report the balance
why do you require....oh never mind you must be one on the list.

Re:let me ask you (1)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#41800089)

why you need to specifically have a swiss account and not say a more close to home one ?

The pictures on their checks are prettier.

Ah, dodgy Switzerland (4, Interesting)

skegg (666571) | about 2 years ago | (#41799567)

Hey many billions -- nay, TRILLIONS -- of dollars have wealthy individuals from around the globe hidden in Swiss bank accounts?

Under any other circumstances, nations would ban trade with Switzerland unless it shared bank account data with their local tax office. Alas, it's the same fat cats that run our countries who shield their wealth in Switzerland.

It was eye opening when that disgruntled IT fellow burned a copy of bank account data onto a couple of DVD's and then embarked on a global tour of selling to each country a list of their citizens who had money stashed in Switzerland.

Is he still alive?

Re:Ah, dodgy Switzerland (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 2 years ago | (#41799639)

In Switzerland, banks accounts hold the money of immoral criminals.

In the US, immoral criminals run the banks.

Re:Ah, dodgy Switzerland (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799683)

Give me a gun and i can rob a bank. Give me a bank and i can rob a country!

Re:Ah, dodgy Switzerland (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799697)

In the US, the customers of Swiss banks run for public office, proclaiming the need to restore America's military while reducing the Federal budget deficit.

Re:Ah, dodgy Switzerland (0)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 2 years ago | (#41799707)

in soviet switzerland, banks rob you!

Re:Ah, dodgy Switzerland (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799731)

Same thing is happening in Soviet AmeriKKKa

Re:Ah, dodgy Switzerland (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 2 years ago | (#41799657)

So in your ideal world, we would force Switzerland to abandon its privacy laws under penalty of economic ruin?

Tell me, are you simultaneously of the opinion that banning financial trades from the likes of wikileaks is bad? Just curious.

Re:Ah, dodgy Switzerland (2)

skegg (666571) | about 2 years ago | (#41799759)

Slow down there, cowboy. You make it sound like I want to send in the cavalry.

I wouldn't force Switzerland to abandon its "privacy" laws.
(I think the inverted commas are warranted, don't you? I mean, what are they really protecting?)

I would simply like to see local jurisdictions refuse to trade with Switzerland unless they provided reciprocal financial information on their citizens. (Many countries have already requested such information -- even writing very stern letters! -- and have received nothing in response.) Switzerland can decide whether or not to comply. Virtually all countries share this information*, and it serves a very important purpose. If I get sued here in Australia, a court can easily determine my financial value (house, bank accounts, shares, vehicles, etc). However if I've stashed millions in Switzerland, my victims are SOL. (And I retain my wealth.)

As for Wikileaks ... I'm not sure how you can throw that at me when I'm clearly in favour of more transparency from our governments, not less.

* Just because many countries do something doesn't make it right. But in this situation -- financial records -- I believe it is.

Re:Ah, dodgy Switzerland (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799929)

> So in your ideal world, we would force Switzerland to abandon its privacy laws under penalty of economic ruin?

Yes. Why not? If a judge writes a warrant, then privacy rights should go out of the window. A drug dealer and his house, a corrupt politician and his bank accounts. Same deal.

Re:Ah, dodgy Switzerland (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799981)

A journalist exposing government corruption and his financial contributors... Same deal.

Re:Ah, dodgy Switzerland (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799663)

He's running Anonymous ; )

21-32 trillion (includes all offshore accounts) (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799717)

Hey many billions -- nay, TRILLIONS -- of dollars have wealthy individuals from around the globe hidden in Swiss bank accounts?

Since you ask, around 21-32 trillion: as much as the US and Japanese economies combined.
http://www.taxjustice.net/cms/upload/pdf/The_Price_of_Offshore_Revisited_Presser_120722.pdf
That includes all off shore accounts, not just Swiss.

WTF? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799597)

Am I missing something here? I have a savings account with HSBC, and I'm not evading shit.

That said, having spent time in Greece, it's a giggle that having an account at HSBC would be prima facia evidence of tax evasion. From what I gathered, tax evasion was a national pastime. Ever notice all the occupied buildings in Greece with unfinished top stories with rebar sticking up? That's apparently because they don't start charging property tax until the building is "finished"...

Economic sense. (1)

Onuma (947856) | about 2 years ago | (#41799645)

Taxing your way out of an economic crisis is only feasible in the [very] short term.

Poor economic choices on the part of the Greek gov't are to blame here...but they're too busy screwing over their people to accept responsibility and make progress toward actual corrections.

Re:Economic sense. (1)

brit74 (831798) | about 2 years ago | (#41799773)

> Taxing your way out of an economic crisis is only feasible in the [very] short term.

First, I don't know why this is relevant to the tax evasion issue. Although, I know a lot of right-wingers can get pretty anti-tax.

Second, would you agree that governments need to have *some* form of taxation? Based on your statement, I assume the only ideologically-consistent position you can take is a total anti-tax position.

Re:Economic sense. (1)

Onuma (947856) | about 2 years ago | (#41800123)

My statement was in relevance to the last sentence of the article summary. The damage has already been done by the Greek government. Even if they did now seek to prosecute the tax evaders, they would still be in a financial mess; the white-collar criminals would merely be the next scapegoat in the line. In a nutshell, I'm pointing the finger at the Greek gov't for mismanaging the money that they did take in, rather than being responsible and accountable with the funds of their people.

Revenue of some form or another is a must for any government. We can't expect a large country to have all volunteers, can we? However, effectively taking the majority of any population's money is ludicrous and irresponsible -- what function(s) could rationally use that much money?
Many of the people with the most money in America are not investing and creating jobs like they would be during better times. Corporate taxes are mind-bogglingly expensive. Government regulation stepped in to try to correct a problem -- and they did to some extent -- but came out with bigger ones. When 50-60% of your startup funds for a new company go straight into overhead, fees and taxes, you're not going to be as likely to start a new venture. You can just sit on that money, put it into less risky investments, etc. Or you take that money overseas and build a business elsewhere. Many people who work regular jobs for a living and are more or less "check to check" don't understand how overregulation and overtaxation can stifle growth.

Re:Economic sense. (3, Insightful)

Shavano (2541114) | about 2 years ago | (#41799819)

You need to distinguish between an economic crisis and a government budget crisis. Taxing can get you out of a government budget crisis. Lowering taxes when you don't have enough taxes to cover your current spending will just as surely produce one.

What a crap government (1)

CuteSteveJobs (1343851) | about 2 years ago | (#41799721)

> The list has been in the possession of the Greek government since 2010

Sounds to me more like the people of Greece should be arresting the Greek government.

Perhaps.... (1)

Cute and Cuddly (2646619) | about 2 years ago | (#41799733)

It is quite possible that is not because those people have a bank account with HSBC, but what else do they have and what do they do. Perhaps some senior public servants? Perhaps some powerful entreperneurs (Yes that is a French word) that can influence law makers. Somehow, this offended some people that was too risky to offend.

Control of information is power (5, Insightful)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 2 years ago | (#41799749)

This is a classic case of government panicking when they lose control of information and thus power. I find when a government spends too much time controlling information they tend to forget what they are actually supposed to be doing. I love how this compares to a functioning government like Norway where you can access people's tax records online. There are a few odd rules though; there is a time window and I believe that people know who has accessed their records. Thus the open information includes knowing which of your neighbours are nosy. But the best part is the first year they went online the public found famous rich people claiming $150,000 in income resulting in investigations.

This is news? (0)

ukoda (537183) | about 2 years ago | (#41799815)

Not sure why this new worthy of Slashdot? It's just general news.

Firstly, the list is stolen so could the Greek government legally use it?

Secondly, tax evasion is illegal but tax avoidance is not. Since when does having an off-shore account prove anything more than you money outside saved the country?

Thirdly, while the penalty is harsh given the unimportant nature of the information publish the principle and crime is valid. If it was a leaked list of patient medial records for off shore treatments would it acceptable?

Journalist? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41799887)

Who thought that publishing the phone book qualified as journalism?

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