The duties and jurisdiction of the economic crimes unit, known as SDOE in the country, will be transferred to a newly established general secretariat for tax policy and public assets, according to a presidential decree issued on Thursday – a “fast-track” method for implementing government decisions.
The newly formed general secretariat will still be under the authority of the finance ministry. The move comes after another presidential decree transferred the general secretariat for IT systems to the digital policy and information ministry.
Both decisions, nevertheless, caused speculation and criticism in Athens on Thursday. In a bid to deflect reactions, the new Mitsotakis government said it will leave open the prospect of structural changes in case “mix-ups” and instances of poor coordination arise.
The latter directorate, for instance, monitors the tax bureau’s TAXISnet platform, which is currently processing individual and business tax returns ahead of the end-of-the-month deadline, a peak period.
Any disruption in the platform’s operations would be disastrous for public coffers.
Main opposition SYRIZA roundly criticized what is essentially SDOE’s abolition and merger into another entity, with former deputy minister Trifon Alexiadis saying its elimination is the “best present for tax evaders, smugglers and other financial criminals.”
In a later response to the day-long criticism, new deputy finance minister Apostolos Vesyropoulos, who holds the tax policy and public assets portfolio, said the changes aim to "depoliticize" both the financial crimes unit and the workplace inspectors' directorate - the latter tasked with on-site inspections of businesses to verify if employees are "on the books" and properly remunerated.
He dismissed the criticism by SYRIZA and said new general directors will be selected via a transparent and merit-based process, while tenured senior civil seniors will be appointed to head up auditing and inspection services, instead of contract-based hirings.