EXCLUSIVE: Christine Lagarde, Evangelos Venizelos,Troika austerity aims, and German corruption

Berlin-am-Brussels’ real motives, and the odyssey of the Lagarde Tax-Dodgers List, are raising questions throughout the eurozone this afternoon. We could be about to witness the scandal of all scandals.

Christine Lagarde became head of the IMF in 2011. Before that – when she was the Minister of Finances for France – she illegally obtained a copy of 24,000 EU tax dodgers who’d deposited their ill-gotten gains at a branch of HSBC in Switzerland. The list, on a USB memory stick, was stolen from HSBC by a whistle-blowing employee.
Some time during the Autumn of 2010, France’s very poor answer to Carol Vorderman handed over the stick to Greek Finance Minister Papaconstantinou. It’s still unclear as to why she did this, but the chances are that she now regrets doing so. Either way, Papaconstantinou  handed it to the Financial Crimes Unit (SDOE). And when Evangelos Venizelos became Finance Minister the following year, SDOE in turn gave him a copy.
Yes, surprise surprise….wherever there is graft, there is Venizelos. Evangelos the Large did nothing at all about the list. He claims now that he did nothing “because it had been obtained illegally”. And if you believe that, then you’d believe anything Lord Mandelson might say.
However, for reasons which are also unclear, Mr Venizelos suddenly remembered his list yesterday morning….and handed it over to Prime Minister Samaras.
The response  of SDOE was almost immediate. Around 10.30 pm last night,  John Sbokos – ex  Secretary to the Directorate of Armament – was arrested by the Financial Crimes Unit. They did it in a hurry because somebody inside Pasok tipped Sbokos off about the handover, and SDOE in turn were tipped off that he was about to do a runner. Mr Sbokos was very close to Akis Tsohatzopoulos, the former Greek Defence Minister. He’s in prison because of his corrupt role in the ‘buy two subs just get one’ scandal.
This scandal in turn implicates a large number of movers and shakers in the German elite.
It is widely assumed that John Sbokos will now start singing like a Canary on X-Factor. But even before he does, the ripples from this rock Venizelos has chucked into the cesspool of Greek politics are spreading rapidly.  Within hours, former Transport Minister and prominent PASOK member Yiannis Ragousis announced his decision to quit in protest at the obvious truth that PASOK Leader Venizelos had been sitting on the list for two years. The list must by now be very crumpled.

In a statement Ragousis released today, the Minister said “While I have been obliged to agree to salary and pension cuts, these [people on the list] have evaded tax. Keeping their names secret is politically immoral, and shockingly unfair to society.”

There are 1,991 Greek names on the list. There are also 22,000 other EU bigwigs on it, and you can bet your sweet bippy their identity won’t be coming to light any time soon if the eurocrats cn help it. The Troika, it seemed today to Slog sources in Athens, weren’t keen to talk about what is now referred to in the media as The Lagarde List. Despite the fact that the list in total amounts to billions of lost euros in EU tax take, the Troikanauts remain focused on their one aim: to squeeze the ordinary ClubMed populace until their pips squeak.

The illogic of this policy couldn’t be clearer. New figures out of Spain show that tax income has dropped since the austere Triad took over. The FT calls them ‘shock’ figures. They must be the only people left on the planet who are surprised by the inevitable. Refusing to relent on demands that the Greek government push ahead with its €14 billion package of spending cuts and tax hikes, the Troika has told Athens that more can be saved in the areas of health, defence and local authority funding. I’m told the meeting at which they said this lasted all of 31 minutes; the assumption of most people in the know is that the atmosphere was frosty.

Yet the two sides do agree on one thing: they both foresee the economy contracting by 6.5% this year, and 3.8% in 2013….with unemployment set to rise further still. So the tax income will drop still further, and the spiral will continue – just as it is doing in Spain, Italy and Portugal. This from a senior media commentator in Italy:

“You sit them down and you say ‘this is the only possible outcome, surely this is mad?’ And they ignore the question and say the Accord must be delivered. Any question involving the words society, economy, extreme politics or financial ruin is simply ignored. These are the cuts and taxes we need, they say: deliver or die.”

To a very great extent, this is a result of the alarming success of the Merkeschäuble Cyclops strategy: “You are all blind and so we are in charge. Without the reliability of the euro being established once and for ever, there can be no European integration”.

The obvious riposte – “Without a change in policy, there will be no Southern Europe” – seems not to concern Berlin. And that makes their incessant whining about “using unfair German stereotypes” so hard to take: if they stick rigidly to the tank’s guidance system as it topples off the cliff, then people will spot the stereotype and use it.

But equally, the IMF and the ECB have minds of their own – especially Mario Draghi. He above all must know that the austerity approach will deliver nothing beyond scorched earth. He seems able to outflank the Germans on many levels, yet he does nothing to sabotage the bunglers from Berlin. Why?

In this rich soil, many a conspiracy theory can germinate and blossom. Are these theories really that whacknut? Or are they just the logical, informed speculation of those who simply can’t make sense of what seems to be happening on the surface? It gets hard at times not to see a hubris-fuelled Brussels and a controlling Berlin working in league with a quorum of Goldman Sachs bankers to reduce the average European to an obedient slave, no longer able to resist the drift from liberal democracy to fascist oligarchy.

If only a small fragment of that scenario is correct, then the Lagarde List gives the Troika in general – and Berlin-am-Brussels in particular – a major problem. I do not doubt that more arrests will follow in Athens over the next few days. An awful lot of grubby stuff about corrupt elites way beyond Greece’s borders is going to seep out – and the spotlight will once again be thrown onto the German hypocrisy and corruption in hard-selling €150bn of sumarines and other munitions to the Greeks…without which Athens wouldn’t have had a deficit crisis in the first place.

A number of medium and short-term riddles remain: Why is the austerity insanity ploughing ahead in the face of a Tsunami of contrary evidence? Why did Berlin in 2009 ask Papandreou to exaggerate the deficit problem? Why did Lagarde hand over the list originally? Why did Venizelos choose now to hand it over?

It’s yet another continuing saga of deception and distortion to which we should all stay tuned.