Greece Seeks Taxes From Investors in London Property

Source: The International Herald Tribune

Real estate listings in the South Kensington area of London. British finance authorities are poring over a list of about 400 Greek individuals who have bought and sold London properties since 2009.

Real estate agents recall sifting the listings for some of the most prestigious, and expensive, properties in South Kensington, a favored area for London’s international set.

But the supposed house hunter, Lavrentis Lavrentiadis, never pulled the trigger back in the spring of 2011, realtors say. Within months his failing institution, a small lender known as Proton Bank, was seized. The Greek government, suspecting that Mr. Lavrentiadis may have moved money out of the country, is now investigating his activities to see if he engaged in fraud and money laundering.

Greece, heavily in debt and desperate to track down money wherever it can, is leaving no stone unturned.

Mr. Lavrentiadis has denied the allegations, and his lawyer did not respond to questions about any interest his client might have had in London properties. But the Greek banker’s rumored flirtation with this city’s prime real estate market, and the frenzy it stirred among sales agents, is telling.

At the request of the Athens government, the British financial authorities recently handed over a detailed list of about 400 Greek individuals who have bought and sold London properties since 2009.

The list, closely guarded, has not been publicly revealed. But Greek officials are poring over it to determine whether the people named — who they say include prominent businessmen, bankers, shipping tycoons and professional athletes — have deceived the tax authorities by understating their wealth.

“These people have money and they are known — but it is not clear yet if they have violated any laws,” said Haris Theoharis, an official in the Greek Finance Ministry. Tax investigators have been examining the list to see if there is any overlap between those who bought London properties and those already identified as being tax cheats.

The Greek government, under pressure from its international lenders to raise €13.5 billion, or $17.4 billion, via tax increases and spending cuts, is intent on making the well-heeled share the burden. Studies have shown that the country may be forgoing as much as €30 billion a year in uncollected taxes, with a significant portion of that amount having been shipped out of the country as the affluent seek shelter from Greece’s financial storm.

This week, the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, opened an investigation into the bank accounts of more than 30 Greek politicians to determine whether they should be charged with tax evasion and the illegal accumulation of wealth. The politicians on the list included the president of the Greek Parliament, Evangelos Meimarakis, creating an embarrassing distraction for Mr. Samaras’s coalition government. Mr. Meimarakis is a former defense minister who has also been implicated in allegations of a money-laundering network said to involve two other former ministers.

But London, long a magnet for foreign real estate investors, has become a special focus for Greek officials trying to track down money that has fled the country.

Bankers say that accounts in Singapore and even in the country of Georgia have become favorite destinations for fleeing funds, more so than the traditional Swiss haven, because of those countries’ looser rules and regulations about accepting large sums of foreign money.

But while Singapore and Switzerland have been reluctant to divulge information about its Greek clientele, the British government has been more cooperative in sharing its real estate records.

There is an air of desperation to this Athens fund-raising drive, which includes leasing out empty Greek islands and even putting up for sale the former residence of the Greek consul general in the tony London neighborhood of Holland Park.

But with Greece’s membership in the euro at stake, every conceivable revenue-raising strategy is being pursued, even if it remains unclear how successful it will be.

For the better part of a century, owning a grand London home in Belgravia or Mayfair has been accepted practice for the wealthiest Greeks — ship owners in particular — looking to hedge their bets against their country’s volatile economy. Since 2008, when the country’s problems began to surface, a much broader spectrum of Greek investors has turned to London real estate.

“Greeks are panicking,” said Sandy Triantopoulou-von Croy of EPPC, a real estate firm in London that does a lot of work with Greek clients. “They just do not know what to do with their money.”

Mr. Lavrentiadis was not the only bank chief to dabble in London real estate. Theodore Pantalakis, a former chief executive of Agricultural Bank of Greece, another ailing lender, caused a stir in Athens this year when it was revealed that in 2011 he had transferred €8 million abroad with the intent to purchase a property in London. Mr. Pantalakis has said that the authorities were informed of the transaction and that the appropriate taxes were paid.

Greek money, along with wealth from China, Russia and various other countries, has kept the high end of London’s property market buoyant despite — or maybe because of — the global financial turmoil. According to research by Savills, a London-based property company, £20 billion of foreign money has been invested in prime residential real estate here since 2006.

The biggest year on record was 2011, when foreigners snapped up £5.2 billion worth of new residences. With economic uncertainty in the euro zone increasing this year, demand for these properties in 2012 shows no sign of letting up, real estate agents say.

Investors from Italy and France have been most prominent in using London properties as a hedge against the euro. But the Greek influx has been especially striking.

Officials in Greece examining these transactions estimate that about 250 Greeks invested over £100 million in prime London residences in 2009 and 2010, according to records collected with the assistance of the British government. As the crisis grew worse last year and this year, government officials say it is likely that the inflows increased.

Not everyone, of course, was looking for a £60 million manse as Mr. Lavrentiadis was said to have done. Even in London, with its enclaves of billionaire oligarchs and sheiks, such requests do not frequently roll around.

Ms. von Croy says that the average asking price from her Greek clients is about £1.5 million, which is still a significant enough barometer of wealth to attract the attention of the Greek tax authorities.

Experts say it is not only high rollers looking to make a splash. Many of the recent buyers hail from Greece’s professional classes, including lawyers, doctors, accountants and midlevel bankers who are paying £300,000 to £500,000 for modest apartments.

Notably, a recent study conducted by economists at the University of Chicago concluded that it was within this segment of society where most of Greece’s tax collection shortfall occurs. By delving through bank records, the economists found that Greek professionals — not the truly wealthy, but the comfortably affluent — skirted as much as €28 billion worth of taxes in 2009.

That would have been enough to cover one-third of the country’s budget deficit that year.

Mr. Theoharis, of the Greek Finance Ministry, said London properties represented but a small portion of the billions Greeks had shipped out of their country since 2009. In 2011, according to government figures, Greeks sent €6 billion to foreign bank accounts. The data for 2012 are even more stark: for the first half of the year about €5 billion left the country, Mr. Theoharis said.

Much of that outflow came in the panicky months preceding the two rounds of Greek elections in May and June.

More recently, the effort by Mr. Samaras’s government to push through spending cuts and economic overhauls has somewhat calmed fears of an immediate Greek euro exit. In fact there was actually a rare increase, of 2 percent, in Greek bank deposits in July.

The harder trick to turn could be persuading Greek real estate money in London to come back home — especially now, with the tax man closely watching.

Are Greeks Europeans? by Peter Economides

Business strategist Peter Economides gives an answer to a German journalist of Süddeutsche Zeituns who asked if Greeks are Europeans.

By Peter Economides* – It took me a while to answer this question.

Not because it was a difficult question to which I did not have an answer. But simply because it had been asked.

The person asking was a known journalist from Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of the most widely read, and most highly respected, German newspapers.

Isn’t Europe a Greek name?

The woman abducted by Zeus in the form of a white bull?

Isn’t Greek thought at the heart of European civilization? Perhaps we don’t have to go as far as claiming, as did Giscard d’Estaing that “Europe without Greece would be like a child without a birth certificate.”

But where did we go wrong?Apart from the genesis of Europe – in name or in spirit – isn’t Europe a mosaic? A beautiful, multicolored mosaic in which each piece plays a role and the whole is bigger than each of its individual pieces.It was a big question this journalist was asking me.

Much, much bigger than I thought.Of course Greeks are Europeans.Perhaps not, however, in a world dominated by productivity, efficiency, balanced books and the Protestant ethic. But is this all that Europe is about?

Greeks are under pressure.

To become “good Europeans.” And what it means to be a good European is dominated by the Northern European definition. This definition may move sometime to the more encompassing idea with which the European Union was initially intended.

But no matter what, it is up to Greeks to carve out a meaningful role within Europe and the world. And Greeks can only do this by being in touch with their essential DNA. If Greeks lose this DNA, then Greeks lose themselves. Full stop.

Let me make one thing clear. I am not talking about physiological DNA. This page is not the place to attempt to trace back Greek lineage to the ancients.

I am talking about the essential concept of Greece. The spirit with which Greeks live their lives.

The stuff that defines the “Greekness” of Greece. About what makes this nation tick. What makes us get up in the morning.

I think the world understands what this is. It’s called life. And the amazing love that Greeks have for life. It was present in ancient Greece.

The love of humanity that gave rise to democracy. The love of beauty that gave rise to sculpture. The love of peace that gave rise to the Olympic Truce.

The love of knowledge which gave rise to science. The love of discovery that gave rise to philosophy. The love of wisdom that shines from the Acropolis in Athens.

Life. This is Greek knowhow. And when we harness its creative power we will reverse our image as a nation with a zest for life and an aversion to productivity.

We need to utilize our “life knowhow” and transform it into creative enterprise that will be valued by the world.

This is how we can reignite our economy. By doing things that Greeks can excel at.

By creating sustainable competitive advantage based on the uniquely Greek knowledge – and love – of life.

*Peter Economides is a brand strategist with a global perspective.

He has lived on four continents doing work that has impacted brands and consumers almost everywhere.

He has learned from the leaders of some of the world’s best brands. He is the owner and founder of Felix BNI.

Amateur Astronomer Kardasis Maps Jupiter’s Moon

Amateur astronomers have proved time and again how much their contributions can help professionals promote progress in their field.

A recent example is Greek amateur astronomer Emmanuel Kardasis, a member of the Hellenic Amateur Astronomy Association.

Kardasis created the new Ganymede brightness map (or albedo map) by using a common “hobby” telescope, ordinary camera and computer equipment.

Officials of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) said that his map matches with the ones taken by professionals.

The EPSC is meeting this week in Madrid and Kardasis’ map is to be presented in hope of encouraging amateur astronomers to continue their own research.

Kardasis’ map identifies features on Ganymede, such as Phrygia Sulcus, a system of thousands of miles of grooves and ridges and a low-lying dark area called the Nicholson region.


IT may not be art but it will take over Newcastle for the next few days

Source: NewcastleTheHerald

The annual This Is Not Art Festival was launched last night, with a smorgasbord of creative events spread across 22 venues in the city today and over the weekend.

This Is Not Art is expected to play a key part in a blockbuster weekend in the Hunter expected to net between $10 million and $12 million for the region’s economy.

Festival co-ordinator Sarah Thrift said the four-day festival would have a digital bent this year as part of a push to expand the event’s focus.

‘‘It’s not just for the arts, it’s for the business sector to come along as well,’’ Ms Thrift said.

‘‘This year we’ve tapped into the fact the creative and business sectors need to start talking more.’’

Among the attractions will be three large, luminescent mobile sculptures mounted on bicycle taxis called the Angler Fish.

Group D Creative Collective principal Cassie Stronach said her creations were designed for the Vivid Festival in Sydney earlier this year.

‘We spent three months designing and building them,’’ Ms Stronach said.

This weekend’s appearance, commissioned by the Hunter Development Corporation, is the first outside that festival.

They will be based in the Honeysuckle area. Newcastle City Council major tourism event developer Mark Stratford said This Is Not Art had an appeal that drew visitors internationally.

‘‘It’s becoming quite a lucrative festival,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s a bit of a strange beast because it rebirths itself every year but this year I think will be above previous attendance.’’

Mr Stratford said the festival was also a key component of Newcastle being named a World Festival and Events City by the International Festivals and Events Association.

The title recognises the Hunter’s ability to host major events as well as its strong annual calendar of attractions.

Several hotels and hostels have been booked out.

Αυτός είναι ο Έλληνας που μιλά 32 γλώσσες!

Source: ΑΠΕ

Ο πιο πολύγλωσσος άνθρωπος -μιλά 32 γλώσσες- στην Ευρώπη, ο Γιάννης Οικονόμου από την Κρήτη, πήρε μέρος στο συνέδριο «Πολυγλωσσία στην Ευρώπη», που πραγματοποιήθηκε στη Λεμεσό.

Ο κ. Οικονόμου εργάζεται από το 2002 ως μεταφραστής στην Ευρωπαϊκή Επιτροπή.

Σπούδασε γλωσσολογία στο πανεπιστήμιο της Θεσσαλονίκης και στη συνέχεια έκανε μεταπτυχιακές σπουδές Μεσανατολικών Γλωσσών και Πολιτισμών στο πανεπιστήμιο Κολούμπια (Columbia), των Ηνωμένων Πολιτειών Αμερικής.

Στο πλαίσιο τού συνεδρίου, η Επίτροπος της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης, αρμόδια για θέματα Εκπαίδευσης, Πολιτισμού, Πολυγλωσσίας και Νεολαίας, Ανδρούλλα Βασιλείου, απένειμε τα βραβεία με το «Ευρωπαϊκό Σήμα Γλωσσών» σε πέντε έργα από το Βέλγιο, την Ιταλία, τη Λιθουανία, τη Νορβηγία και τη Ρουμανία, τα οποία σημείωσαν εξαιρετικές επιδόσεις στην προώθηση της διδασκαλίας και της εκμάθησης γλωσσών.

Σε δηλώσεις της, η κ. Βασιλείου επεσήμανε ότι η γλωσσική πολυμορφία είναι πλούτος για την Ε.Ε. και όλοι θα πρέπει να προσπαθήσουν, ώστε οι νέες γενιές να μαθαίνουν ακόμη περισσότερες γλώσσες.

Επίσης, δήλωσε ότι η Ευρωπαϊκή Επιτροπή συνεχίζει την προσπάθειά της, ώστε κάθε παιδί να γνωρίζει δύο επιπλέον γλώσσες, πέραν της μητρικής του.


Διέρρηξαν το σπίτι της Έλενας Παπαρίζου

Στο «στόχαστρο» διαρρηκτών βρέθηκε το σπίτι της Έλενας Παπαρίζου.

Πιο συγκεκριμένα, άγνωστοι τα ξημερώματα της Πέμπτης εισέβαλαν στο σπίτι της δημοφιλούς τραγουδίστριας, που βρίσκεται στην ευρύτερη περιοχή των Καλυβίων και αφαίρεσαν χρήματα, κοσμήματα και άλλα προσωπικά αντικείμενά της.

Όπως είναι λογικό, όταν επέστρεψε στην οικεία της η Παπαρίζου υπέστη «σοκ», βλέποντας το σπίτι της να είναι… λεηλατημένο, κι έτσι κοιμήθηκε το βράδυ σε σπίτι φιλικού της προσώπου.

Mάλιστα όπως αναφέρει το star, η δημοφιλής τραγουδίστρια λίγο έλειψε να έρθει πρόσωπο με πρόσωπο με τους διαρρήκτες, καθώς όταν ετοιμαζόταν να εισέλθει στην οικεία της, εκείνοι έφευγαν από την άλλη πόρτα!


Ο Χάρης Δανάλης επέστρεψε στην Προεδρία της Ελλην. Κοινότητας ΝΝΟ

Source: SBSGreek


Έναν μήνα μετά την παραίτησή του (ύστερα από τη θορυβώδη έκτακτη Γεν. Συνέλευση των μελών της Ελληνικής Ορθόδοξης Κοινότητας Νέας Νότιας Ουαλίας για την πιθανή πώληση της ιδιοκτησίας του Οργανισμού στο Πάντιγκτον του Σίδνεϊ), ο Χάρης Δανάλης επέστρεψε στα καθήκοντά του.

Το Διοικητικό Συμβούλιο του Οργανισμού ομόφωνα δεν αποδέχθηκε, τελικά, την παραίτηση του Χ. Δανάλη και τον κάλεσε να επιστρέψει στην Προεδρία της Ελλην. Ορθόδοξης Κοινότητας.

Ο Χάρης Δανάλης μίλησε στη Βάσω Μώραλη και στο Ελληνικό Πρόγραμμα της Ραδιοφωνίας SBS, σχετικά με την επιστροφή του, αλλά και για την κρίσιμη οικονομική κατάσταση που αντιμετωπίζει ο Οργανισμός.