The European Commission was responding to a parliamentary question posed by MEP Kriton Arsenis in April.
In his question Mr Arsenis noted , “On 31 March, the HRADF announced the sale of 100% of Hellinikon SA shares to Lamda Development SA… Article 42 of Law 3943/2011 concerning the establishment of Hellinikon SA states that the company ‘shall be exempt from any tax, duty or fee, including income tax in respect of any form of income derived from its business, of transfer tax for any reason, capital accumulation tax ( … )”
Mr Arsenis then asked the Commission whether in its view this apparently unjustifiable tax exemption constituted state aid, especially given the fact that Lamda Development, as sole bidder for the site, purchased the shares for about 915 million euros when an independent valuation had put the price of the real estate at over 1.2 billion euros.
Joaquin Almunia, responding on the part of the Commission stated that, “Greece has not notified the alleged tax exemption measure. The Commission does not have sufficient information to assess whether it constitutes state aid. The Commission will ask Greece to provide clarifications on the issue.”
The answer is at the very least perplexing given that the European Commission is part of Greece’s troika of lenders who have a keen interest both in Greece’s privatization programme and its revenue collection. Given the high profile nature of the Hellinikon sale it is remarkable that the Commission appears to be so ill informed of the text of the law governing the sale.
But perhaps it is all one big misunderstanding, and not, as Mr Arsenis has claimed, the establishment of an “offshore company in the heart of Athens.”
We await the Greek government’s clarification with interest.