Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Taki Explains the Greek Situation

He writes:

Bankers laundering money is another matter altogether. Lavrentis Lavrentiadis is an unusual Greek name, although it has not been unusual for Greek officials to cheat on their taxes and purchase grand houses overseas. It’s called laundering money, and the Russians are even better at it than the Greeks and the Chinese combined. London is one big money-laundering machine. It should change its name and simply call itself Laundry.

The Greek house hunter never made a London purchase in the spring of 2011 because there were so many other crooks ahead of him. Within months the government seized his bank—Proton Bank—which was a bit of theater of the absurd, seeing as government officials of the Greek persuasion are not exactly unknown in London’s real-estate markets.

Lavrenti—not Beria but Lavrentiadis—has denied the accusations of money laundering, which, as a certain hooker of long ago said, “He would, wouldn’t he?” What has emerged from the mess is that the British financial authorities—whatever that means—have handed over a detailed list of about 400 Greeks who have bought and sold London properties since 2009. Whew! Most Greek shipowners (is there any other kind?) I know have had homes in London since the 40s, and even the poor little Greek boy got his first house in London town back in 1971. (I sold my last one in Cadogan Square in 2004 after I looked around me and found only Turks, Arabs, and Russians as my neighbors.) Apparently Greek government officials are closely guarding and examining the list. I say good luck. Catching tax cheats in the birthplace of electrolysis is like finding honest men in Beirut—extremely rare...

Shipowners have owned houses in London since time immemorial. That’s where all the markets were located and where contracts were signed. There were Greek shipowners in London even while Greece did not exist but was under the Ottoman yoke...But that was then. Greed got the better of the Greeks as successive governments stole what little wealth the country had. My father’s factories were blown up during the communist uprising of Christmas 1944. The only way of coming back was by going west to America, where he brought ships that the international community protected from communist sabotage. Stick to the sea, he used to tell me—it’s safer out there. But he rebuilt his factories and businesses in Greece and continued to live there until his death in 1989. My old man knew how to play the Greek game. I never bothered to learn because I never liked the rules. Nor did many of my Greek friends who chose to live outside and only go there during the summer.

As I write, with a three-party coalition government supposedly out to catch the crooks, the president of the Greek Parliament, once the seat of my uncle, is under investigation for tax evasion.

Evangelos Meimarakis, a very rich man having saved his meager salary, has of course denied all charges. After his declaration of innocence there was a Pinteresque silence, then people began to laugh, the laughter spilling out into the wide boulevards, with people falling all over themselves while holding their ribs. It was mass hysteria for a while, as if some Turk had poisoned the water supply with LSD. Thousands had to be hospitalized from excessive laughter. Hookers were laughing too hard to perform, and public transport came to a stop. Taxi drivers were seen stopping their cars, getting out, and collapsing in hysterical laughter. Someone had the bright idea to erect a sign just beneath the Parthenon: INNOCENT, like the one that reads HOLLYWOOD over La-La Land. The cops stopped laughing long enough to remove the sign. The Acropolis rock is sacred, said a police announcement. It was the only truth uttered that day.

Greece cannot function as a modern economy unless markets are freed, corruption rooted out, and cartels and favoritism eliminated. But who will do this? The crooks that are in Parliament already? Premier Samaras talks a good battle but he has spent his life in politics—Greek politics—and has never had a job outside politics. His hands are as dirty as the rest, and there is not a single person among the 300 in Parliament whose hands are not. But the Germans are the bad guys. Down with Germany.

Read the full article here.

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