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Over the weekend, Greece’s Finance Ministry released the names of 4000 of its most egregious tax evaders, who it accuses of withholding or embezzling some €14.9 billion ($19.2 billion) from the Greek government.
While all the tax evaders named owe the government an extraordinary amount—it only named those who owe more than €150,000 ($193,115)—there was one name that stood out on the list: Nikolas Kassimatis.
The 57 year-old Kassimatis owes a whopping €952 million ($1.23 billion) to the Greek government, funds he embezzled through through the country’s shoddy auditing system. It’s also a fraud, he insists, that isn’t over.
Greek news site iefimerida reports that the 59 year-old accountant is currently serving a 504-year jail term.
According to their coverage of the story, Kassimatis’s scheme started back in 1993, when the accountant began fabricating companies in order to charge the government for refunds on value added taxes. He is believed to have used offshore accounts to hide the kickbacks.
The corruption was uncovered in 2001 and an investigation began on the tax fraud. The Greek justice system filed charges against dozens of tax and customs officials, five of whom are now in jail. Business people who teamed up with Kassimatis in the fraud were also implicated in the case and charged.
But instead of facing the music, in 2004 Kassimatis took off on the run as the charges mounted against him.
That was the last authorities knew about him until 2009, when they discovered Kassimitis in a “random” arrest. By that point, he had already undergone plastic surgery to change his appearance. In fact, it seems the surgery was so drastic that when we combed the internet for pictures, we couldn’t even find images of the man in the Greek press.
With the fraudulent accountant finally back on trial, some ugly facts came out about the Greek government’s management of its most notorious tax fraud in recent memory. It turns out that the former head of the office responsible for collecting the VAT tax Kassimatis had profited from had not only escaped charges, but had been promoted. Kassimatis also implicated some 50 Greek tax officials in the scheme.
New investigations resulted in numerous criminal convictions. The former VAT director received a prison sentence of 15 years, and according to eKathimerini, Kassimatis’s nephew also ended up behind bars.
But iefimerida reports that Greece’s most embarassing fraud case might not be over yet, as Kassimatis insists that even more people are involved.
(A big thanks to Yannis Koutsomitis–@YanniKouts–who helped us track down this story.)