Greece Steps Up Tax Evasion Crackdown With Asset Freezes

The Greek finance ministry’s economic crimes unit has frozen bank accounts, shares and properties in 121 tax evasion cases as the country seeks to raise revenue to meet its budget-cut goals.

“Tolerance of tax evaders, no matter how high up they are, is over,” Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said in an e-mailed statement today. SDOE, as the unit is called, has so far frozen assets of 121 individuals and companies under probe. Total unpaid taxes in the country amounted to 42 billion euros, the finance ministry said a year ago.

Greece’s coalition government, headed by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, said in its policy statement after being formed in June that budget measures for 2013 and 2014 will include spending cuts and proceeds from improved tax collection rather than further pension and wage reductions. The 11.5 billion-euro ($14.5 billion) budget cuts are part of pledges made to secure 240 billion euros of bailout funds from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Confiscated assets include shares listed on the Athens and New York stock exchanges as well as luxury properties, the ministry said. Tens of millions of euros and foreign currencies have been found in the seized bank accounts and more accounts will be probed, it said.

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