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Tax officials attacked during an inspection in Agia Varvara

21 December 2012 / 15:12:44  GRReporter
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Four police officers were slightly injured during a tax inspection, near the metropolitan suburb of Agia Varvara. Suburbanites wanted to beat the tax officials after they found out that the Ministry of Finance was intending to carry out an inspection in the area. The neighbourhood is known as the main residence of the Roma population and many Greeks consider it as the ghetto of Athens. The area is known for the production and trade of counterfeit branded goods and it is a public secret that the police and state have little effect on it.

According to official information, the tax inspection was initiated following a signal for trade of counterfeit branded goods. Inspectors headed to the stores in one of the biggest shopping streets in the neighbourhood - Eleftherios Venizelos Avenue. Once the owners of the stores realised the intentions of the inspectors, they blocked the traffic on the street. In order to carry out the inspection, the inspectors had to call forces to combat public disorder in order to break the blockade of residents and merchants of Agia Varvara. Residents set garbage bins on fire, blocked the way of the tax inspectors and started throwing stones and homemade Molotov bombs at the police who had come to help.

A total of about 100 people entered the fight against the police in order to prevent control inspections by the representatives of the Finance Ministry. The fight lasted nearly an hour before the tax inspectors actually started work. Citizens and traders in the region insisted that everything there was legal and similar actions were unjustified. Tax authorities, however, discovered violations in a number of stores - distribution of goods of unknown origin, not providing primary accounting documents, lack of basic permits and other irregularities.

Meanwhile, restructuring of the tax system and reform in the administration of the Ministry of Finance triggered a new political scandal in Greece. While tax inspectors in the Athenian suburb were trying not to be lynched by local inhabitants, both parties in the coalition government PASOK and New Democracy flew at each other's throats. Deputy Finance Minister George Mavroganis (from New Democracy) announced that 164 employees heading local tax offices in the country would be removed from office because they did not meet the new requirements laid down by the Treasury for the collection of revenues.

Socialists believe that it is a political purge. According to them, New Democracy wants to change the current employees in medium and high positions with supporters of the party. This is the same practice that has been followed for decades under which key voters were promised and provided well-paid positions in the public service sector in order to ensure the re-election of the political power in the next election period. This practice is not unfamiliar to either of the parties, but the largest number of "comfortably appointed" over the years belongs to PASOK.

In the end, Mavraganis withdrew his decision to dismiss tax officials and the final word will be said by both parties’ leaders - Antonis Samaras and Evangelos Venizelos. Tax authorities, in turn, believe that similar castling is extremely inappropriate right now. Changes in the tax system and increasing the burden on the administration require the election of stable tax managers with objective criteria, instead of the application of a party principle, tax authorities said. They insist that the government comply with all the rules of transparency and objectivity in the selection of new regional leaders with upcoming reforms.

Tags: Economic Society tax authorities inspection Greece Agia Varvara Mavraganis
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