Damian Mac Con Uladh

Archive for October, 2012|Monthly archive page

The parallel universes of Greek journalism

In Uncategorized on 29 October 2012 at 4:50 pm

Journalism is under attack in Greece: today, Kostas Vaxevanis appeared in court for publishing a controversial list of over 2,000 Greek residents with accounts in a Swiss bank. The Greek government had the list for two years and did nothing with it; another five EU countries reportedly brought in 10bn euros using information obtained from the same bank.

Then, two television presenters on state NET TV were “suspended until further notice” because they had said Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias had got it wrong when he said torture accusations made by 15 antifascists against the police were false.

Dendias had said that medical reports to be published would show that no torture took place. The problem for him was that the forensic experts documented injuries that supported the victims’ claims of torture, something that the presenters, Kostas Arvanitis and Marilena Katsimi, dared suggest showed that Dendias was talking through his hat.

Amid this climate, the following news wire was put out by the Athens-Macedonian News Agency, Greece’s semiofficial news agency claiming that Greece is now a “model country” for the way it deals with money laundering.

I’m publishing it here verbatim, as it’s unlikely to appear in any media anywhere in English (although some newspapers have run the original Greek version).

The reaction from people I’ve shown to already has been laughter and disbelief. No Greek can or will take this report seriously.

Greek money laundering machines – not (cc alpenfelt)

Greece no longer ‘problem’ country vis-a-vis money laundering, corruption

Greece not only has stopped being considered a “problem” country with respect to money laundering and corruption since June 2011, but according to official data of the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF), but is also considered a model-country as regards the framework and organisation of its mechanisms for clamping down on money laundering, a document from Areios Paghos (Supreme Court) deputy chief prosecutor and the Independent Authority on money laundering and audit of assets statements Panagiotis Nikoloudis that was submitted to parliament on Monday said.

The document, submitted in reply to a question tabled by Independent Greeks MP Maria Kollia-Tsarouha, also cited newer statistics for 2012, which Nikoloudis said “are not ready to be announced yet but are specific and convincing, and allow the thought that soon the image of Greece will change abroad, and chiefly the way that the state acts in the specific areas”.

The independent authority chief also submitted to parliament, in his document, figures concerning the clampdown on money laundering and corruption in 2011, noting that the independent authority had investigated and identified 162 cases of money laundering, which it forwarded to the authoritative prosecutors, and at the same time seized a “criminal product” of 223,982,146 euros.

Comparing this to other EU countries, the document said that Belgium — which is acknowledged as having the best organized and equipped unit — had seized a total of 22,223,656 euros, while Portugal, which was about the same size as Greece, had seized 30,077,972 euros whereas much larger Spain had seized the sum of 12,398,000 (in 2005) and Britain, with its SOCA unit, had seized a criminal product of 327,600,000 euros.

What did Venizelos just say about the Jews?

In General on 14 October 2012 at 5:54 pm

Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos attempts to justify his failure to use the information on the Lagarde list on Mega TV news, 3 Oct 2012

At first I wasn’t sure whether to believe them or not. A few tweets claiming that Evangelos Venizelos, the current Pasok leader and former Greek finance minister, said that the only names he’d seen on a controversial catalogue – the so-called Lagarde list – of about 2,000 Greeks with large bank accounts in a Swiss bank were “Jewish”.

But the tweets grew in number and a quick search of the Greek press proved that they were correct. I was shocked. The leader of the second largest party supporting Antonis Samaras’ coalition government had specifically singled out Jews when discussing a list of suspected tax evaders.

Venizelos was speaking to parliament’s institutions and transparency committee on October 11. In a five-hour testimony to MPs, the Pasok leader said that he had received the list on a flash drive from the then head of the Financial and Economic Crimes Unit (SDOE), Yianns Diotis, in August 2011.

Diotis had also printed out some pages from the data, continued Venizelos, who insists that he never opened the actual file.

He looked at the print outs and got the “unpleasant impression that three of the names were of Greek Jewish origin” (Ta Nea, 12 Oct 2012).

With the help of @IrateGreek, we checked the record. This is what Venizelos said:

What I meant about religion is that they were names that gave the impression that these were Greek citizens of Jewish origin. And this is something I commented on somewhat negatively. Why do I have here three names that happen to be names of Jewish origin? It made an impression on me and it wasn’t a pleasant impression.

(Video: @IrateGreek/YouTube)

Venizelos has yet to comment on why he felt the need to single out Jews when talking about tax evasion and financial crime. His official statement to the transparency committee makes no mention of Jews, or Jewish names for that matter.

As a citizen of Thessaloniki, he should know better. The city, once known as the “Mother of Israel”, lost 94% of its Jewish population in the Nazi Holocaust. For centuries, Jews formed the largest ethnoreligious group in the city.

One Greek Jewish citizen has written of his anger at Venizelos’ comments.

“Since the crisis began, I wondered who would be the first idiot to heap the blame on us, the Jews,” asked Jean-Jose Cohen, in an open letter to the Pasok leader.

“As a Greek citizen and voter, I would ask you not to transfer your personal political problems to us. For me, it’s clear what you’re trying to do. To distract the public from your own political problems by throwing the blame on us, the Jews.

“No, Mr Venizelos. The crisis is not our fault. Most people (based on the last election) believes that the blame for the crisis rests with your party which brought us the debts of Andreas Papandreou and the chaos of ‘Little’ George Papandreou.”

Cohen pointed out that had Greek ministers used the list in the same way as their French and German counterparts, who bought in billions to state coffers, there would be no need to cut pensions and salaries now.

He concluded by saying Venizelos should resign following the Lagarde list controversy and not try to “scapegoat the Jews”.

Already, obscurantist rightwing blogs have started to feed off Venizelos’ comments. In a post that is adorned with a disgusting antisemitic image, one blog, Hellas-Orthodoxy, demands that names of the three “Jews” be published, claiming there is a media conspiracy to keep them secret. It also absurdly claims that a Syriza MP, Zoe Konstantopoulou, was particularly angry over the remarks because she is of Jewish ancestry herself.

Accusing politicians on the left of being Jews and fake converts to Christianity is common among Greek rightwing circles.

UPDATE: This article was amended on 10 February 2015 to include the footage from the committee hearing where Venizelos made the remarks. @IrateGreek provided the video.