Greek minister resigns over spouse's £5m tax bill

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The Independent Online

A Greek junior minister resigned late yesterday after it emerged that her crooner husband owed €5.5m (£4.7m) in unpaid taxes and fines.

Angela Gerekou, deputy minister for culture and tourism, gave up her cabinet seat in a move aimed at showing that the government is serious about holding all tax-dodgers to account. Mrs Gerekou married the singer in 1996.

Tolis Voskopoulos, the Hellenic answer to Tom Jones and the man who starred in the smash musical, Dream Lovers, has paid no income tax for almost two decades, according to documents from financial authorities in Athens that were obtained by the Eleftherotypia newspaper.

Greece is in the midst of a debt-crisis that has rippled across the eurozone and beyond. Athens has already received €5.5bn in aid from the IMF and is due to get more from the European Union today.

Under intense pressure to get its finances in order, George Papandreou's government has introduced harsh austerity measures, incurring the wrath of unions, and has started naming and shaming tax dodgers. According to Transparency International, the unrecorded or "black" economy in Greece could be worth a staggering 40 per cent of the country's GDP. This would mean that the projected tax revenues for fiscal 2010 of €54bn should be €21bn higher.

Opinion polls show most Greeks believe the bailout was necessary but are angry at the thought of ordinary people bearing the brunt of savage cuts. Seeking to assuage those fears, the Greek premier said yesterday: "I believe we can implement our programme. But we must ensure the weakest in our society don't fall into the abyss. We can't push people below the poverty line."

According to public documents dated 2009, Mr Voskopoulos last paid income tax in 1993, and today owes €3.2m in taxes and €2.3m in fines.

In September, according to the Eleftherotypia report, the singer sought to have his debts wiped out because he had no means to pay. But his appeal was refused.

Mr Voskopoulos yesterday said that he never had the sum in question, hinting that the case was aimed at harming his wife's career. "My so-called tax immunity has me as the visible target but essentially affects (harms) someone else," he said.

A government spokesman said the resignation proved necessary so as "not to hurt" the government, despite Ms Gerekou having "no involvement" in her husband's tax indiscretions.

The Ministry of Finance announced an investigation into the tax authorities' handling of the case.