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Greek “untouchables” …touched: a scandal per day keeps the crisis away?

Hardy has the button “publish” been pressed and a new financial scandal breaks out. Slowly but surely we have lost control over the counting” how many prominent and less prominent Greeks have been arrested, how many of them are free on bail, how many of them are remanded custody, how many awaiting trial, how many of them have returned ‘illegally earned money’ back to the state.

These developments taking place since a couple of days have been described as “gushing” by the national media. Indeed, they are. The names of people who dominated the political and business landscape in the past decades suddenly appear as ‘ suspects ‘ in prosecutors’ findings lists. Most of them have had their hour with the investigating judge or will do so in the coming days. The names of people “beyond any suspicion” but also the names of some who are already in prison pending trial are on the prosecutors’ lists.

The usual charges against these people are “fraud” and “money laundering”.

With the latest mega-scancal of Hellenic Postbank, arrested are ex bank executives and a former bank CEO, a media owner and well-known private businessman, just to mention a few of the 30 suspects in the case of ‘bad loans” that cost the state at least 400 million euro.

A scandal per day…

The HPb scandal broke last Wednesday when the prosecutor ordered the arrest of seven of the suspects. On Saturday the arrest of ex CEO Philippidis took place in Turkey.

Next day, i.e. on Sunday, the judges of a special council ruled there was no politically legal obstacle for former Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstaninou to stand trial for having erased the names of four of his relatives from the so-called Lagarde List containing names of more than 2,000 Greeks suspect of tax evasion.

On Monday morning two men were arrested in the context of bribes in defense deals. A former CEO of Skaramangas shipyard and an ex close associate to former defense minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos who is charged with prison sentence due for having received several millions of euro in bribes..

Millions of euros seem to have changed pockets, bank accounts , lockers and countries , a former minister (Tsochatzopoulos) is already in prison , another , also a former Defense Minister is under investigation.

A number of other public officials have been deprived from their office and detained .

Most of the detainees and arrestees are affiliated with the two big parties that ruled the country for decades  and continue to rule also today: conservative Nea Dimocratia and socialist PASOK.

In a country where corruption and cliques dominated the public life, is certainly not easy to find the evidence, the dark corridors of money flow, and raise felony charges. Justice must have solid evidence and most important the back up of the political leadership.

Greek ‘untouchables’ … touched

The unprecedented has happened: Greek ‘untouchables’ have been touched by the justice. then in contrast to the well-known Indian caste, the Greek “untouchables” seem to have plunder public money, did their best to give the country one more push towards the cliff of bankruptcy and the huge public debt.  Then the Greek debt was public debt and not bankrupt banks.

A public debt that swallows the last euro of the unemployed, the low-incomers, the couples without home, the parents who cannot feed their children. During the last 3.5 years of loan agreement with the Troika, some people could not bear the load and committed suicide.

But the Greek untouchables remained untouched. Nobody was called to give account for the huge debt even thought it was clear some one was responsible somewhere…

Why now?

So what is happening in Greece? How comes that the famous Greek “untouchables” land in prison, in custody, name it what you want? The questions come more and more out of the lips of the stunned Greeks. These questions and many more: “Did Samaras decide to finally clean the Augeas stables and throw out the mist?” this questions comes with the traditional and necessary dose of suspicion.

“What is happening, why, now?”was among others also the question, while we were sitting in front of the fireplace at a friends’ home on Saturday night. Six people over fourty, three of them without job, sipping wine and trying to ‘see’ their future among the dancing flames.

“He [Samaras] gives blood to the thirsty folk,” one of the friends said, while one other immediately shot “Maybe, but that’s not enough. It will make sense only if the money they took is given back and helps our public debt to sink. Otherwise we will also pay their food in prison… for nothing.”

“Τhe politicians who took these decisions, allowed such things to happen and also appointed these people should also be called to give account for what they’ve done,” another friend said and the comment to this proposal was a simple “HA! Then all politicians of the last decades will go to jail.”

“They do it to distracts us from the crisis and the taxes,” shouts one and adds “like in the roman circus.”

Each one of us hurls his own explanation in the air, the others picks it up, comment and develop it further.Despite the ironies and jokes, nobody is convinced that the coalition government of Nea Dimocratia and PASOK does this cleaning of public life for the sake of cleaning only.

At the end of the brainstorming, we are all convinced, that the main motive behind this cleaning action are the upcoming EU and municipality elections in May.

Samaras has nothing to give to the debt-ridden voters. No wages hikes, no pension hikes, no tax decreases, no health access, no free medicine. The country’s lenders insist in continuation of the strict austerity. Samaras  cannot even distribute some money to the real needy, some money from the slowly filling bag of the famous primary surplus. 15,000 civil servants are to be laid-off next month.

What if all sails are set for a successful EU Presidency. Common Greeks do not care. Common Greeks may care to see if other bad loans were given by public banks to other members of the caste of the Greek untouchables.

The names of the economic elite are known to all of us. Will the knife reach the bone? And yet!

“That’s not enough! That’s, these people only a part of the problem of our Greek debt” said a friend and added that “the country, the society, the political world needs a thorough overhaul, change of mentality. And that cannot happen until the next elections”.

In a rare occasion six Greeks seemed to have agreed upon an issue last Saturday evening.

We also agreed that government partner PASOK was not worth mentioning during our debate.

“PASOK? That’s finished!” is what the average Greek will tell you. Greek socialists have been following a neo-liberal policy anyway and that they will disappear from the ballot boxes next May. Not to mention the general public assumption that PASOK members and politicians have been heavily involved in money scandals all through the years.



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