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Greece’s high life must comply with the laws too

18 December 2013 / 14:12:00  GRReporter
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Former minister in two governments of New Democracy Michalis Liapis was taken, in handcuffs, to the fast-track court in Athens on charges of document fraud and forgery. In addition, he was fined for having installed a tow-bar on his jeep and for having tinted its windows.

DIAS policemen had arrested him in the Athens suburb of Artemis at about 11:00 am on Tuesday after they had established that his luxury jeep had fake registration plates and no insurance.

Michalis Liapis testified before the prosecutor, who has accepted his request to postpone the proceedings to another date. So, the trial against him has been scheduled for Thursday, 19 December.

In statements to the media, he said that he had submitted the valid registration plates to the tax authorities in order to avoid paying the tax, due to financial considerations. "I am retired. The crisis has hit me too. I am not saying that I am poor. My car is usually parked in a warehouse in Porto Rafti (a coastal village in Attica – author’s note). As I am about to travel to Asia I was concerned that the battery might be damaged, so I drove it on the road. I had paid the road tax for 2013. I did not have insurance because I was not driving the car. What happened is ridiculous. I will face the due punishment."

According to police sources, however, when the policemen had stopped him, he had pointed out that he had been a deputy and minister for years, thus aiming to avoid the check. Despite his attempts to relieve himself of responsibility on the basis of the routine procedures applied to politicians for years, the police team had been ordered to follow the legal procedure. The check had established that Liapis had not had his driving licence on him, the registration plates had been fake and the vehicle had had no insurance. The former minister had tried to justify his actions by saying that he had obtained the fake registration plates to be able to "to go out for a drive."

The offences for which Michalis Liapis will appear in court are not as grave as the moral side of his actions. He was a member of the Greek Parliament for decades and a minister in two governments of New Democracy. The new rules of the road had been adopted during his tenure at the Ministry of Transport. Following his arrest yesterday, the mainstream media were full of reports of 2007 when Liapis had been discussing with drivers in central Athens avenues the importance of the new regulations and of transport safety. The preface to the rules that those who want to obtain a driving licence in Greece read is his work too.

Moreover, Michalis Liapis is a member of one of the political families that dominated Greece from the mid 20th century until a few years ago. The former minister is the nephew of Konstantinos Karamanlis, long-standing prime minister and president of Greece, and cousin of Kostas Karamanlis, in whose government he was Minister of Culture and then subsequently, Minister of Transport. In 2009 Liapis opposed his cousin’s decision to force early elections, defining it as a "tragic mistake for the party and the state" and said that he would not be a candidate for deputy.

On social networks, there is an avalanche of critical and satirical comments on the case. Hash tag #free_liapis was literally blocked by critical remarks to the politician who had recently published a book entitled "For a new morality." "Liapis is the latest acquisition of the "I do not pay" movement", "Let this be a lesson to Yiannis Stournaras. Even Liapis is unable to pay the road taxes... ","The rules of the road are not only a legal text but also a law of life," Michalis Liapis wrote in the preface of the Rules, 2007" are just some of the comments.

Other users "froze" the laughter of their fellow citizens by recalling that they themselves, with their votes, had ensured a place for Liapis in the political elite.

"Michalis Liapis, one of the most prominent ministers ever, is behaving like an ordinary criminal to avoid paying taxes."

"Do you want to hear a joke? Liapis had been first on the list of deputies from the second constituency in Athens for years. Ha! Not all of you are laughing, are you?"

In times of economic crisis when the majority of the Greeks are struggling to duly pay their tax obligations, including road taxes and car insurance, Michalis Liapis’ act is more than challenging. Although his financial situation is far from being defined as difficult, by returning the valid licence plates of the car he has saved himself the sum of 4,174 euro (1,320 euro in annual road tax, 2,254 euro in tax on luxury items and 600 in annual insurance).

Tags: Crime newsMichalis LiapisArrestChargesFake registration plates
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