Greek Editor Vaxevanis on Tax Scandal: 'Many Friends of Leading Politicians Are on the List'

Police arrested Kostas Vaxevanis at the end of October for publishing the names of hundreds of rich Greeks suspected of tax evasion, only to be released a short time later. He tells SPIEGEL that Greek politicians are complicit in the scam and seek to pass laws to retroactively legalize tax offenses.

Greek editor Kostas Vaxevanis: "A majority of Greeks are being squeezed by austerity measures while the elite are bunkering their money abroad." Zoom

Greek editor Kostas Vaxevanis: "A majority of Greeks are being squeezed by austerity measures while the elite are bunkering their money abroad."

SPIEGEL: Were you surprised when you were arrested for publishing a list of names of people suspected of evading taxes?

Vaxevanis: Yes I was. Dozens of police surrounded my house as though I were a dangerous criminal. But three different governments have done all they could to make sure that this list remains secret. There had frequently been rumors, but nobody wanted to take the risk of naming names. It is absurd: A majority of Greeks are being squeezed by austerity measures while the elite are bunkering their money abroad.

SPIEGEL: The public prosecutor has now asked parliament to investigate further to determine if politicians were guilty of failing to pursue tax evasion.

Vaxevanis: The only problem is that many friends of leading politicians are on the list. Everyone is connected with everyone.

SPIEGEL: What makes you so sure that this is indeed the so-called "Lagarde List," the collection of names of HSBC account holders that then-French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde handed to Greece in 2010?

Vaxevanis: Not even our politicians dispute the authenticity of the list. First, we called the owners of shipping companies, who are allowed to hold large quantities of money in offshore accounts. They confirmed the list contents. We spoke with HSBC employees and then called people to see how they reacted. Parliamentarian Giorgos Voulgarakis denied everything even though there is evidence that he failed to declare large sums of money being held in a Swiss bank account. An advisor to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told us that, as a lawyer, he was managing the money for someone else. There are peculiar networks.

SPIEGEL: Do you think that the lax approach to tax-code violations will now change?

Vaxevanis: Germany used the Lagarde List to go after tax evaders, as did France and Spain. But in Greece, the list simply disappeared. Why? Because everyone here is complicit: politicians, business leaders and journalists. Laws are passed here that retroactively legalize violations. Evangelos Venizelos, head of the socialist PASOK party, is an expert in the discipline. But nobody writes about it.

Interview by Julia Amalia Heyer

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About Kostas Vaxevanis
  • DPA
    Kostas Vaxevanis, 46, is the founder and editor of the fortnightly magazine Hot Doc. He was arrested at the end of October when his magazine published a list of almost 2,000 Greeks holding Switzerland-based accounts at the bank HSBC. The suggestion was that many of them could be tax evaders. The editor was acquitted in a fast-tracked trial on Nov. 1.

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