Greece Lost $261 Billion in Illicit Financial Outflows from 2003-2011, GFI’s Baker Tells Der Spiegel

September 4, 2012

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Nearly US$200 Billion in Illicit Inflows to Greece from 2010-2011, fueling 2nd Largest Underground Economy in the OECD, GFI Director Tells German Magazine

From 2003-2011, Collective Illicit Financial Flows into and out of Greece Total US$509 Billion

WASHINGTON, DC – The Greek economy lost US$261 billion to crime, corruption, and tax evasion from 2003-2011, Global Financial Integrity (GFI) Director Raymond Baker told Der Spiegel in an exclusive interview (English version here) published yesterday in the German news magazine.  Interestingly, while Greece experienced heavy illicit outflows for 6 of the first 7 years in that time series, Greece experienced massive inflows of illicit money in 2010 and 2011.

The research, compiled by Dr. Dev Kar, GFI’s lead economist, and Ms. Sarah Freitas, a GFI economist, revealed massive illicit inflows of US$90 billion in 2010 and US$109 billion in 2011.  On the whole, Greece was found to have suffered US$509 Billion in both illicit in-and-outflows over the time period.

“These are massive flows of illicit money for an economy the size of Greece,” said Mr. Baker, who also directs the Task Force on Financial Integrity and Economic Development.  “Clearly, the US$261 billion in illicit outflows through 2009 were unsustainable as the nation’s dire, current fiscal situation attests.”

“However, the roughly US$200 billion in illicit inflows over the past 2 years are likewise disturbing.  Illicit inflows fuel the underground economy—including crime and corruption—lead to a deterioration in economic governance, and cannot be taxed.”

Further, the massive illicit inflows of US$90 billion in 2010 and US$109 billion in 2011 are particularly unnerving as they have funneled directly into Greece’s domestic underground economy, which is already classified as the 2nd largest underground economy (as a percent of GDP) in the OECD (after Mexico). [1] Fascinatingly, the next largest underground economy in the OECD belongs to Italy, with Portugal and Spain having the 3rd and 4th largest European underground economies in the OECD.

“Given the massive illicit flows into and out of Greece, there is every reason to believe that Greece’s underground economy is likely to continue growing at an increasing rate,” said Dr. Kar, who worked as a former senior economist at the IMF before joining GFI.

Mr. Baker explained that these illicit financial flows are not isolated to Greece:

“This is a problem facilitated by a global shadow financial system comprised of tax havens, anonymous shell corporations, and trade based money laundering techniques.  Until world leaders address this system, illicit money will continue to flow freely.”

Indeed, further GFI research—authored by Dr. Kar and Ms. Freitas—reveals that developing and emerging economies lose roughly US$1 trillion each year in illicit financial outflows.

“But, this is no longer a problem simply plaguing the developing world.  It’s now a problem with potentially catastrophic consequences for major developed powers in Europe and the United States.”