Tag Archives: corruption

Baltakos Gate

Here’s a video that is expected [or should] cause tremors in the Greek political scene. Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasidiaris leaked this video today where he secretly filmed a discussion with cabinet secretary Takis Baltakos.

During the conversation, Baltakos can he heard saying that there was no evidence to substantiate the crackdown on Golden Dawn following Fyssas’ fatal stabbing by a Golden Dawn supporter last September.

He says that Justice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou and Interior Minister Nikos Dendias appealed to the chief prosecutor at the Supreme Court, Efterpi Goutzamani, a so-called devout Christian, that Golden Dawn were “pagans, idolaters, Nazis and opposed to Christianity”.

Baltakos also said that the crackdown on Golden Dawn was to stop the party drawing support from New Democracy.

Some initial conclusions:

  1. The Samaras administration has secret channels of communication with Golden Dawn.
  2. Prime Minister Samaras has appointed the Supreme Court Prosecutor simply because she comes from a nearby village.
  3. This otherwise independent prosecutor is paying back favors.
  4. Ministers of the Samaras administration can order arrests by picking up the phone.
  5. A case can be “put in the archive” with a short 30 minute investigative committee at the parliament.
  6. There’s no one to turn to if someone wants to file a claim for corruption against the current administration.

This is probably going to create an avalanche of events so stay tuned. By the time I managed to subtitle the video Baltakos has resigned but, in a modern functioning democracy, both Athanasiou and Dendias should resign too. If not Samaras himself too!

As to who is Takis Baltakos, I copy below some facts from EnetEnglish.

Takis Baltakos was appointed by Antonis Samaras to the key political position of government general secretary in June 2012.

He has been identified with the most rightwing section of New Democracy, and is said to have “led opposition” to proposals crackdown on neonazi Golden Dawn.

In December 2012, he told the head of the National Commission for Human Rights, Kostis Papaioannou, that “he doesn’t care, in his capacity as a representative of the government and New Democracy, about the committee’s work and human rights, nor about the country’s international obligations”. Papaioannou was presenting his annual report to the government. He said Baltakos opened it at a chapter on racist violence and threw it on the table, saying, “We are not interested in the human rights of foreigners.”

In 2013, he is alleged to have said that cooperation between New Democracy and Golden Dawn in future elections was “undesirable but not an unlikely possibility”.

In May 2013, it was reported that he was one of the key officials involved in holding up an antiracism bill on the grounds that it could “potentially cause problems”. The bill would have outlawed incitement against people because of their race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation, and impose jail sentences of up to six years on offenders”.

Baltakos was a leading voice against moving against Golden Dawn, up to September 2013, when the government was pushed into taken action after the murder of Pavlos Fyssas. According to the Wall Street Journal, Baltakos said that a crackdown “would backfire, winning the party sympathy from voters disgusted with the establishment and alienating conservative constituencies such as the army and church.”

Last week, he said he has been an “anticommunist” all his life and that the Greek left has “plagued” the country since 1942, the year it took up arms against the occupying Nazis.

Politicized Greek porn?

In an attempt to identify with the widespread anger in Greek society, targeted mainly against corrupt politicians, the country’s biggest porn production company has produced its latest gem, a politicized porn movie (!?!?!) where terrorists rape Ministers’ wives.

The "Impact" is already being sold at Athens' kiosks for 14,90 €

The “Impact” is already being sold at Athens’ kiosks for 14,90 € (Photo by Athensville)

The movie’s title is “Impact” (the rhyming Greek headline translates into something like “The people’s revolution upon the Minister’s wife”) and the plot, according to Sirina Productions’ website, is this.

2012. The dominant emotion of impoverished Greece is disappointment. With the movement of the indignants being blown off course, people are looking to find ways in order to defuse the anger they feel towards the politicians that betrayed them. The mode of punishment that everyone of us is dreaming varies, but we all want to it to be exemplary …

With this in mind, a group of young men create a terrorist cell and attack Ministers’ houses. They find their wives and give them a lesson they will never forget. A lesson that includes lots of spanking and even more sex. They also record their deeds and then blackmail the crook politicians. “Either you return the stolen money to the state funds or we post the videos online!”.

Here’s the trailer.
For more on the effects of the economic crisis on the Greek porn industry you can also read this (Sirens call Greeks into the porn industry).

Mindmapping Greece’s tax evaders

One of the biggest problems of the Greek economy is tax evasion. If you ask any ordinary Greek he’ll tell you several cases of tax avoidance that he knows. I recently read the story of Professor Diomidis Spinellis of Athens University of Economics and Business. In 2009, the Greek Ministry of Finance hired Spinellis in an attempt to organize the approach to tackle the problem.

Spinellis tackled the problems like it was programming challenge. He made something called a mind map. A mind map looks like a tree, and it maps how your brain works. And Spinellis’s mind map illustrated in a precise, clean manner why Greece is missing so much of its tax revenue.

An example of a mind map (By Paul Foreman)

First on the mind map. Locate the tax evaders, he thought, and improve tax collection. It should be easy, because wherever he looked in the data, he saw tax evasion.

Spinellis’s program found hundreds of thousands of cases of potential tax fraud.

Greece has three hundred regional tax offices. Spinellis thought the solution was simple. Share the data with all of them and wait for the revenues to come flowing in.

Nothing.

Most Greeks will tell you there is widespread corruption in the tax offices. Collectors take bribes. So Spinellis added a new item to the mind map. Management issues at regional tax offices.

Spinellis wrote a small program that would extract each day’s performance data from every single tax office. It recorded information on how much revenue was collected, how many cases were closed, the number of days it took to close a case, etc. It also kept a list of the tax offices that had not closed a single case that day. There were hundreds of them.

The program sent an email every single afternoon to the finance minister and every tax collection office, reporting which offices did absolutely nothing that day. And still, days passed with no action.

The whole idea behind Spinellis’ project was so simple that one can wonder why the Greek Finance Ministry hasn’t thought of it until now. Why wait until 2009 to organize the country’s tax income? And why hire someone outside the Ministry for something so simple when the Ministry and the Tax Offices employ several thousands of people?

It is around this point, two years in, that Spinellis had a disturbing thought. A new item on his mind map. Fixing Greece’s tax system, and ultimately making the Greek economy work, was not a matter of tweaking his computer programs. It was not an information problem. It was a culture problem.

If the people don’t want to pay taxes, the collectors don’t want to collect, and the politicians don’t want to punish them, perhaps Greece needs more than a mind map.

At the end of 2011, Spinellis resigned from his government job. He’s back to teaching.

Guy Fawkes forgot the Greek Parliament

Guy Fawkes, third from right

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
 

Last night I had the privilege to attend the vote of confidence from the galleries of the Greek Parliament. I was hoping to tweet the details but, despite the Parliament Press Office’s reassurance, there was not wi-fi in the room and cellular networks were de-activated. Anyway, I must say that the theatrical play we all saw last night belongs as a genre to the theatre of the absurd. And it is indicative of how Greek society is functioning and also of how our collective memory is working.

This country is in its worst position for decades and, still, no one has been found responsible for it. No politician, no economist, no banker, no one. However this government was allowed to continue with its policies without the slightest moral problem. We just forgot, as citizens and as a society, to continue pressing for justice on this matter. It’s because we didn’t keep remembering long enough.

Similarly, yesterday everybody seemed to have forgotten how the past week has started. We have forgotten the irresponsibility of Papandreou calling a referendum that drove world markets and leaders crazy. We have forgotten that the question changed on Wednesday and the new question was dictated by the Merkozi couple. We have forgotten that yesterday, only a few hours before last night’s vote, Papandreou had almost resigned and then simply changed his mind. Last night he had the luxury to pose like a winner, because we didn’t keep remembering long enough.

And the result was that we saw 153 MPs voting a vote of confidence for a government that promised the absurd: to resign. Where on earth has such a thing happened before? In the previous days, several MPs have stated that they will vote NO if Papandreou wouldn’t promise to resign. So George arrived to the podium, at 23:00 and not at 20:00 as his office has leaked, and gave us the promise. The marginal majority voted YES. The socialist MPs, them and only them, have voted for their government to share the power (and blame) with the rest of the parties. The rest of the parties rejected the PM’s ideas with a negative vote but will be called today, or soon, to join the new national unity government. Papandreou won. He will resign. Apart from tragedy and chaos, paradox is also a Greek word.

We must finally understand that this government, together with the parties which will eventually co-operate to produce the next government of national unity, belong and represent the establishment which brought us here. This establishment cannot correct the situation, it cannot afford the metamorphosis. They are talking about the corruption, the clientelism, the debts, the wasting of public money as if they were phenomena from another planet. As a famous Greek blogger wrote, “Greece should not only be thrown out of the euro zone. Greece should be kicked out to another planet”.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli’ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England’s overthrow;
 

Papandreou also outlined all (his) policies that the new government of national unity will have to do. It’s our obligations toward the IMF/EU/ECB in order to continue receiving the bailout package’s installments. So not only he will resign, but his ghost will still haunt the next government. It will be a government committed not to the people’s verdict but to its predecessor’s policies. Speaking of inheritance, an emotional Papandreou said yesterday “From my grandfather, I inherited just a watch. From my father I inherited nothing but the name”. And the new government will inherit his policies.

By God’s providence he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holla boys, Holla boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
And what should we do with him? Burn him!
 

Epilogue. I respect Maria Houkli. She is one of the most serious persons in Greek tv today. She is the anchorwoman in ANT1 TV. When the marathon coverage of the political developments finished in the early hours of Saturday she came up with this farewell to the viewers:

“Goodnight and… what else can I say? Good luck to all of us.”