Greece's musical superstars have found themselves at the receiving end of public outrage after some of the country's best-known singers were accused of hiding their real incomes from the taxman.
As pensioners and public sector workers are fed another dose of the austerity policies mandated by Greece's international lenders, the leading Greek daily Ta Nea has published what it claimed were the declared incomes of more than 30 well-known and well-paid artists during 2008-2009, the period just before the sovereign debt storm ravaged the country's finances.
Many of the named singers usually perform on a daily basis at Greece's popular bouzoukia night- clubs. The newspaper claims that many of the vocalists could make up to €12,000 a night, yet allegedly declared as little as €3,223.86 in income for the entire year.
The allegations sparked fury across the internet. Some singers rejected the accuracy of the figures. Many others were quick to justify themselves. Sakis Rouvas, one of Greece's most famous artists who has performed twice at the Eurovision song contest, reacted by saying that the article only recorded his personal income and went on to disclose the full amount his company paid to authorities: up to €1.2m in taxes since 2008. Other famous singers such as Anna Vissi and Giorgos Mazonakis also argued that the newspaper failed to reveal the income of their companies.
Whatever the accuracy of the data, the article, which was published on Monday, spread fast on social media outlets Facebook and Twitter. One reader commented: "It's a disappointment to read such things about artists you admire especially when they also slam the government for the austerity measures."
Twitter user Silas Serafim joked: "I'm richer than [Anna] Vissi!" (The singer appears on the list as having declared around €3,000 net income for 2008). Magdalini Karagiorgiou, a nurse said the news made her feel sick. "I haven't been paid in four months but I still need to pay my taxes. I'm not granted the 'flexibility' that is afforded to these artists."
Slamming tax evaders is turning into a popular theme across the Continent. In France a left-leaning newspaper criticised the country's richest man, Bernard Arnault, for seeking Belgian nationality in what – despite his denials – was seen as an effort to dodge taxes. Earlier this week, Liberation's front page read "Get lost, you rich idiot", prompting Mr Arnault to sue the paper, according to reports.
In Greece, authorities have long come under fire for not stamping out tax evasion that is estimated to have cost the state around €20bn in 2010 alone.
Vagelis Tsogkas, a political communications specialist who also used to work as a press officer at the Ministry of Development, said the publication of the figures gave some temporary satisfaction to lower echelons of society that have been bearing the brunt of the austerity measures.
"The figures are provocative indeed, but what happens next is the biggest question... What it actually reveals is the weakness of the state mechanism to tackle tax evasion."
French elite trade blows over supertax
Two of the wealthiest men in France, and the world, have exchanged verbal and legal blows on the morality of paying, or avoiding, President François Hollande's proposed 75 per cent tax rate.
Baron Edouard de Rothschild, part of the international banking family, defended the left-wing newspaper that he partly owns after it published a front-page attack on Bernard Arnault, the head of the LVMH luxury goods empire.
Mr Arnault is seeking Franco- Belgian citsizenship but denies that he plans to go into tax exile to avoid Mr Hollande's super tax on the rich. He is suing the left-wing newspaper Libération which used the headline: "Casse-toi, riche con" (Get lost, you rich idiot). This was a reference to an insult mouthed by President Nicolas Sarkozy, a friend of Mr Arnault, to a member of the public who refused to shake his hand. Mr Sarkozy said: "Get lost, you poor idiot."
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