Greek deputy minister resigns over singer husband’s millions in tax debts

By Nicholas Paphitis, AP
Monday, May 17, 2010

Greek officials quits over singer husband’s taxes

ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s deputy tourism minister resigned Monday after tax officials said her husband, a popular singer, owes millions of euros in unpaid taxes, a major embarrassment for the cash-strapped government’s war on tax evasion.

A government statement said Angela Gerekou, 51, stepped down “out of sensitivity” hours after the scandal broke in a daily newspaper.

“Angela Gerekou has submitted her resignation for reasons of sensitivity and sensibility, so that they cannot provide the slightest pretext to hurt the government,” the statement said. It added that Gerekou claimed she had no involvement in the tax affairs of her husband, Tolis Voskopoulos.

The finance ministry confirmed that Voskopoulos faces criminal prosecution for debts of €5.5 million ($6.8 million) in unpaid taxes and fines. It said the cases have not yet come to court, but Voskopoulos’ real estate assets have been frozen.

A ministry statement said an investigation is under way into the delay in collecting Voskopoulos’ debts.

Debt-ridden Greece has cracked down on rampant tax evasion, recently publishing the names of alleged high-profile tax cheats and seeking to catch tax evaders by using satellite photos to spot undeclared swimming pools — an indicator of taxable wealth.

The center-left government has also pledged to make collection of the estimated billions in unpaid taxes a priority.

Gerekou held the important tourism portfolio, and quit at the start of the vacation season, with hoteliers worried by recent cancellations following violent demonstrations in Athens.

A former actress who once posed topless for a Greek men’s magazine, Gerekou was appointed after the Socialists won a landslide election last October.

No replacement has been announced.

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