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The Greek Liechtenstein

21 October 2012 / 16:10:06  GRReporter
4036 reads

Kranidi is a small town in the Argolid of about 5,000 inhabitants. In recent years, it has turned out to be the capital of offshore companies, having more than 180 such firms registered there. Kranidi has turned into a tax haven due to the lack of fiscal control and the existing, until recently, possibility to buy and sell expensive properties and to rent real estates without paying the relevant taxes - something permitted by the status of offshore companies. Since 2010, the Ministry of Finance has been aware that in Kranidi, where the number of tax office employees is small, offshore companies owning luxury properties are being founded. Their wealthy owners use the companies' names in order to make huge tax savings. Only two employees work in the tax office there. Because of the large workload, they only investigate cases of citizens, without having the time to check companies as well. This "secret" was soon revealed. The number of offshore companies started increasing in the year of the Olympics, and they marked a considerable development in the period 2007-2008.

According to an investigation by the Office for Combating Economic Crimes (OCEC) these companies have properties worth millions of euro, they do not pay the annual property tax, and are mainly represented by local lawyers, notaries, small shopkeepers, and even unemployed persons. One of them, for example, represents six companies and a farmer represents 14. Most of them are Greeks, some are prominent businessmen or large owners of land, hotels, villas, etc.

OCEC began investigations on these offshore companies in 2011 in the Peloponnese and they show evasion in large amounts. The only thing is that the findings of the investigation should be sent to the small tax service of Kranidi for further actions, such as regular tax control, collection of taxes and fines. In early 2012, the authority of the tax office in Kranidi was submitted to the tax office in Nafplio. As a consequence, the huge volume of documents with pending tax cases of the offshore companies in Kranidi was transferred by truck and unloaded in Nafplio. Thus, the few tax officials in the city had to also deal in a few months with the tax control of 184 cases of offshore companies, in addition to the huge amount of work. 161 of these cases will become void by prescription by the end of the year.

Last June, the tax office in Nafplio sent a document to the Ministry of Finance, stating that it was unable to verify these 184 companies from Kranidi. On 5 September, i.e. about three months later, the Deputy Minister of Finance signed a decision, according to which the control centre in Athens is assigned to make the regular tax audit of 161 offshore companies with expired statute of limitations. This decision was published in October, four months later. Since it is believed that it is impossible for the tax audit to be completed in two months, the leadership of the ministry is planning to extend the period of limitation on all tax cases by one year.

OCEC has targeted 18,000 offshore companies in Mykonos, Paros and Halkidiki, which own luxury villas and other properties with unpaid taxes. The investigation is carried out with data from urban services, as well as from mortgage offices across the country. Pictures taken by air from Google Earth professional are also being used. OCEC inspectors are seeking tenants of luxury properties, as well as their actual owners, who hide behind offshore companies.

It should be noted that there are offshore companies which regularly pay their tax obligations but they are the exception rather than the rule.

Tags: offshore companies tax evasion Kranidi
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