Greece launches fraud probe into finance ministry

GREECE is investigating allegations of bribery, illegal economic activity, forged documentation, smuggling, negligence and corruption in the ministry for finance.

The probe has also discovered that 70 ministry for finance workers are millionaires.

According to a preliminary probe, 70 finance ministry employees have real-estate holdings ranging from €800,000 to €3m in value.

The ministry has also set up a hotline for members of the public to act as whistleblowers.

The average real-estate holdings for these employees is valued at €1.22m, while their average declared income is €50,834.

The finance ministry also said it is launching an internal inquiry to investigate 50 anonymous and named complaints brought against employees of 31 tax offices, 10 customs agencies, and a number of financial agencies throughout the country.

The internal inquiry concerns, among other allegations, cases of bribery, illegal economic activity, forged documentation, smuggling, negligence and corruption.

"Restoring transparency in tax collection, as well as the reputation of the tax administration in general is essential not only for improving public revenues but also in order to instill a sense of social justice and establish a trustworthy relationship between citizens and the state," the finance ministry said.

However, the ministry said the success of this project rested not only on tax employees but on the public's participation and co-operation and it has set up a hot-line where citizens can report suspected tax evasion and other financial crimes.

The ministry will also investigate 234 employees who have not filed tax declarations for 2007-2008, as well as others at random, and examine the property holdings of 70 employee millionaires.

To shore up its services and help restore confidence, the ministry said it was completely reorganising tax collection mechanisms and had replaced 20 directors under whose supervision various offices failed to meet collection targets.

"The goal is to bring up to date the mechanism of tax collection, better serve citizens and establish a transparent and fair tax framework," it said.