Greek Tax Avoidance 101: Cover Your Swimming Pool With A Tarp, Fool A Satellite

No photos or videos of Greek street riots, or burning Athens policemen here. With all the serious discourse over Greek bankruptcy and what not, the general public sometimes ignores the levity of the broader comedy that has brought us here in the first place, i.e. that the Greek government simply sucks at collecting taxes. And no matter how many decrees from above come, this will not change. Case in point: the Guardian reports about the latest tax collection, and immediate ensuing tax avoidance scheme implemented by the Greek government and the Greek wealthy, essentially includes the usage of Google Earth to track those who have swimming pools, cross indexing it with tax collections by address, and catching perpetrators. The loophole - green tarps to fool Google. In other words, good luck IMF.

Vangelis Vasilopoulos is the chief engineer for a company which builds swimming pools in the wealthy northern suburbs of Athens, home to ship-owners and tycoons like Spyros Latsis, one of the richest men in the world, who hosts Prince Charles on his travels to Greece. Industrialist Theodore Angelopoulos and his wife Gianna, who led the organising committee for the Athens Olympic Games (only six years ago, when Greece was heralded a "little nation miracle") are installed there too, as is Mr Papandreou himself.

Mr Vasilopoulos says his company has been "inundated with calls" from residents of such elite residential neighbourhoods as to how to camouflage their swimming pools. At first blush, the requests seem bizarre.

In fact, they stem from the revelation that the Greek finance ministry is using Google Earth software to track down the owners of the pools, which tax inspectors consider an indicator of wealth, and which have often been built illegally.

"There are therefore two reasons to hide one's swimming pool," said a pool-owner who confessed guilt on both counts and, not surprisingly, asked not to be named.

Fortunately for him, however, there is a ingenious solution.

"The formula is simple," said Mr Vasilopoulos. "All you need is a green-coloured cover and then the pool cannot be spotted from above. But if the water is visible, or the netting or cover is blue, then you've had it".

Although even cat and mouse games may be coming to an end.

Despite such inventiveness, even the most determined tax-dodger recognises that a new era is at hand. And for a country which prides itself on being the seat of European civilisation, a nation which claims to have exported the continent's values of democracy, the prospect of having a different way of life dictated to it is a devastating and humiliating reversal of fortune.

Alas for the Greek, and all their "Club Med" buddies, the cultural de-evolution is on. And sooner or later it is coming to the U.S.

In the meantime, here is a sampling of a "hornets nest" of potential tax evaders in one of Athens wealthiest neighborhoods. And an investent idea as a bonus: go long all Greenwich, CT green tarp-makers.


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