The French newspaper Le Monde devoted two lengthy articles to Greek shipping - "Greeks in London" and "The happiness of living as a shipping tycoon in Greece."
"In order to live comfortably in Greece, it is better for you to stay in the background." So begins the first article, which addresses "the umbilical cord between the state and the shipping magnates" in Greece, which no politician has ever tried to break.
“This umbilical cord is art. 107 of the Constitution ", which excludes shipping magnates from taxation of profits, which is mandatory for other businesses, and requires only a special tax on the ship’s tonnage. “Even the street demonstrators connected tycoons with plutocracy and management of the rich, but their privileged position is not subject to public debate in Greece, such as for example are the tax benefits of the church", the newspaper notes.
"All Greek governments have understood the message. No Greek leader would want to see shipping tycoons - providing 6 percent of GDP - to leave the country", says the article. It also noted that the Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos called upon Greek shipping magnates to help the country during the height of the crisis, "but they did not respond."
The French editor explains that despite his efforts the Union of Greek shipping tycoons avoided his attempts to reach them.
"Greeks in London, a mysterious world with preferential taxation" is the title of the second article, accompanied by the image of Aristotelis Onassis abroad.
"London Greeks", as Le Monde calls them, control 20 percent of the Greek fleet, but are wrapped in a veil of secrecy. In the annual Sunday Times list of the 1000 richest people in Britain "only the name of Ioannis Goulandris appears and not members of the families Handri, Embirikou, Lemou, Hadzipatera, Niarhou or Tsakou", says Le Monde.
"It is impossible to learn anything more because we are talking about private companies which hire the best lawyers to keep the curious away. Most of them even deny the fact that they live in London", told the newspaper compiler of the list, Philip Beresford. Surely the main reason for this secrecy is tax, says the article. Further on, the article gives a historical review of the presence of Greek shipping magnates in London, and notes that the first ones arrived in 1850, having bought steamers, and the second wave arrived during the Greek civil war.
"Conservative, if not reactionaries, many of them supported the dictatorship in 1967 and today they fund charity campaigns, departments for Greek language studies and Greek culture in British universities, as well as the former King Constantine", added Le Monde.