Gikas Hardouvelis, the man who headed Greece’s Finance Ministry until the January 25th elections unseated the New Democracy-led government, has revealed that he transferred large sums of money out of the country in 2012 out of fear that the country was headed for a default and euro exit.
The money transfers took place only a few months before Hardouvelis became a key adviser to the technocratic Prime Minister Lucas Papademos who led a unity government following the resignation of George Papandreou. Hardouvelis went on to become Finance Minister in 2014.
Speaking on Monday morning to a live program on Star channel, Hardouvelis said, “In June of 2012, I also became fearful – as all of Greece was. And I, as many Greeks, transferred some money abroad so that I could support my children, I was frightened that the country might collapse.”
Several days ago the head of the newly created anti-corruption bureau Panos Nikoloudis requested that parliament examine Hardouvelis’s 'Pothen Esches' financial declarations after discrepancies were identified.
Specifically Nikoloudis stated that in 2011 Hardouvelis’s bank accounts had been credited with funds that exceeded the amount that he had declared on his income tax declarations. Nikoloudis also stated that for 2012 Hardouvelis had wired money abroad which had not been included in the wealth declarations he was obliged to submit given his role as an adviser to the Prime Minister between November of 2011 until May 2012, and as Finance Minister from June 2014.
Hardouvelis has rejected any allegations of wrongdoing stating that all of the money has been properly taxed and declared by him and his wife.
Today in his Star TV interview ,he sought to provide further explanations. Hardouvelis stated that he had transferred the money abroad in payments of less than 10,000 euros – amounts that allowed him to avoid being audited by the Bank of Greece - but argued that everything he had done was legal. He noted that all of the transfers abroad had occurred in 2012 before he had taken any official role in the Finance Ministry and that he would do so again if he thought there was a danger of losing his money.
However the government spokesperson Gavril Sakelaridis has raised questions over Mr Hardouvelis’s account, writing in a statement,
“Mr Hardouvelis attempted to provide answers in an interview today on Star TV channel and to Ms Tsapanidou with regards to the sums which he transferred abroad but he only succeeded in raising further questions. More specifically:
1. While Mr Hardouvelis claims that the sums that he transferred abroad have been declared, what arises from the document is that the amounts which were transferred in 2012 were undeclared in his financial statement (Pothen Esches), despite him being an adviser to Prime Minister Papademos! If Mr Hardouvelis declared them in 2014, that means they were declared two years late!
2. He maintains that he transferred them in 56 installments between 5/5.2012 and 17/6/2012 because he felt unsure if that amount would reach the final bank account! That is a top banking executive for years did not trust the i-banking services of one of the biggest banks in the world!
3. Subsequently Mr Hardouvelis stated that he transferred sums in 56 installments under 10,000 euros because of limits on transfers through i-banking - and not to avoid being audited by the Bank of Greece which examines transfers abroad of amounts over 10,000 euros. We can inform Mr Hardouvelis that a simple search on the web shows that the specific bank in question sets a limit of 50,000 euros for transfers via i-banking within the EU.
4. Finally, Mr Hardouvelis maintains that he sent the funds to Britain. That is true on one level, but to be precise he sent them to a branch of the bank in question on the Isle of Jersey which, while is indeed a part of Britain, is also the 7th most important offshore tax haven in the world and a favourite destination for the money of Greeks who wish to avoid taxes. Indeed in November of 2012, the then Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras sent a letter to his British counterpart requesting a list of the 97 Greeks with deposits on the Isle of Jersey. The case was also the focus of financial crimes prosecutors. We are now seeking the name of the other 96 Greeks.
The government does not wish to throw mud at Mr Hardouvelis, nor promote witch hunts. We are seeking answers to the legitimate questions which have been raised. And mainly two political answers:
How is it possible for the Finance Minister of Mr Samaras’s government - which subjected citizens to heavy taxes and supposedly was combating tax evasion – to be involved in such a case?
How is it possible for someone involved in such a case to have been negotiating with the creditors on the behalf of the Greek people?"