Former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou blamed tax havens on Thursday for “robbing” his nation of vital funds to invest in areas like welfare and education, reported The Telegraph; and claimed that his country would not have needed a bailout if tax evaders and avoiders had not funnelled money overseas.
The former Greek prime minister remarks came at opening of Socialist International's four-yearly conference in Cape Town, South Africa, where Papandreou had cited a recent report that $21 trillion was being hidden in tax havens around the world.
“Whether it is in developed or developing nations, it is our citizens that are being robbed," he said, later describing the extent of tax evasion/avoidance again as "plain robbery.”
"I know this, Greece is suffering from this,” he added. “Had this alone been tackled, Greece would have most likely never have needed a bailout.”
According to a report by Greece's finance ministry in February, Greeks had legally moved 16 billion euros abroad in the last two years. Furthermore, Bloomberg News had reported in June that bank deposits in Greek banks had dropped by 16 percent just that month, with rampant capital flight noted from Greece to other parts of the world.
"Yet Europe, the G8, G20, the banking system despite my pleas as prime minister, despite token reference in our council of G20 decisions, have done nothing to change this,” said Papandreou angrily at the conference.
In 2010, Greece, under Papandreou, became the first eurozone country to get a bailout in exchange for tough austerity measures. Papandreou was also effectively forced to resign late last year amid mounting discontent over the measures to help stave off bankruptcy.
“[My] struggle was not one to impose austerity as an end or as a goal, but a difficult necessity in a hostile environment to give time and hope so that Greece make the deep and necessary changes,” he said.
And though Papandreou had no exact figures to state how much money Greeks had placed in tax havens, previous reports and studies suggest that the country had been losing out in billions due to rampant tax evasion and avoidance.
A study by the European Union late last year estimate that Greece has yet to collect about 60 billion euros ($77.52 billion) in unpaid taxes. Only about 8 billion euros of that amount is expected to be recovered, while the country could owe its troika of debtors – the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank – up to 110 billion euros in loans.