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Greece names and prosecutes celebrity tax evaders

Singer Tolis Voskopoulos and retired basketball player Michael Misounof among 4,000 citizens identified, owing €15bn

Prospects of Greece securing a debt deal that might save the eurozone from further turmoil were eclipsed on Monday by the news that some of the nation’s leading celebrities have been hoodwinking the taxman for years.

As the world frets over the country’s increasingly unmanageable debt burden, the finance ministry has revealed that 4,151 Greeks owe €14.9bn (£12.4bn) to the state – more than the €14.5bn bond repayment Athens has to make in March.

The list includes the singer Tolis Voskopoulos, a former basketball star, Michael Misounof and high-profile entrepreneurs, many of them behind bars. Fifteen offenders owed more than €100m, each, in back taxes with one man, an accountant serving several life sentences, owing €952m.

Greece is estimated to have lost about €60bn in unpaid taxes according to an EU report released in November. The nearly €15bn owed by those named and shamed on Monday is the equivalent of 0.7% of the country’s gross economic output. The dodgers had gone to extraordinary lengths to hide earnings, often stashing their money in offshore accounts.

Tax evasion is seen as the single biggest drain on revenues with EU and IMF officials blaming the country’s missed budget targets on this dodge.

With ordinary citizens hard hit by rising inflation, deepening recession and repeated wage and pension cuts, Athens’ ten-week-old interim government has moved speedily to prosecute tax evaders with culprits being arrested and charged for the first time. “It is no longer easy to be a tax evader in Greece,” said George Pagoulatos, a senior adviser to prime minister Lucas Papademos.

The government had to change privacy laws before publishing the list compiled in November. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds