With “well-known Belgian beer” and other critical imported goods becoming scarce in Greece, one could hardly be blamed for wanting to move some cash out of what is clearly a sinking ship. Nevertheless, revelations that former finance minister Gikas Hardouvelis transferred some half a million euros out of the country in 2012 come at a decidedly inopportune time, as the country’s current finance minister is in the midst of an epic display of brinksmanship in a futile attempt to preserve what little dignity Syriza has left while simultaneously staving off financial armageddon.
Apparently, Hardouvelis was concerned enough about Greece’s fate in the summer of 2012 to move €450,000 out of the country to an HSBC (go figure) account over the course of 56 transactions. Unfortunately, a recent investigation into the former FinMin’s bank accounts revealed “discrepancies.”
Rather than deny the fact that he acted to avert the possibility that his savings would be subject to redenomination, Hardouvelis went the direct route and simply told the truth: “Yes, I transferred some money abroad because as every Greek I was afraid that the country would collapse,” Hardouvelis said, adding that “Greeks always look at their own pockets.”
More from TOC:
The money transfers took place only a few months before Hardouvelis became a key adviser to the technocratic Prime Minister Lucas Papademos who led a unity government following the resignation of George Papandreou. Hardouvelis went on to become Finance Minister in 2014.
Speaking on Monday morning to a live program on Star channel, Hardouvelis said, “In June of 2012, I also became fearful – as all of Greece was. And I, as many Greeks, transferred some money abroad so that I could support my children, I was frightened that the country might collapse.”
Several days ago the head of the newly created anti-corruption bureau Panos Nikoloudis requested that parliament examine Hardouvelis’s 'Pothen Esches' financial declarations after discrepancies were identified.
Specifically Nikoloudis stated that in 2011 Hardouvelis’s bank accounts had been credited with funds that exceeded the amount that he had declared on his income tax declarations. Nikoloudis also stated that for 2012 Hardouvelis had wired money abroad which had not been included in the wealth declarations he was obliged to submit given his role as an adviser to the Prime Minister between November of 2011 until May 2012, and as Finance Minister from June 2014.
Hardouvelis has rejected any allegations of wrongdoing stating that all of the money has been properly taxed and declared by him and his wife.
But while Hardouvelis claims he did it all for the children, the Greek government has another take on the matter:
Mr Hardouvelis maintains that he sent the funds to Britain. That is true on one level, but to be precise he sent them to a branch of the bank in question on the Isle of Jersey which, while is indeed a part of Britain, is also the 7th most important offshore tax haven in the world and a favourite destination for the money of Greeks who wish to avoid taxes.
In the end, we have capital flight and allegations of tax dodging in the context of possible Grexit — so, par for the course.