A prominent Greek-Jewish financier, who will testify before a committee investigating the Greek government’s failure to crack down on tax evaders, is threatening to sue several Greek news organizations he says are behind a campaign supported by neo-Nazi politicians to smear his name.
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Sabby Mionis, who moved to Israel seven years ago after selling his holdings in a Geneva-based hedge fund, said he had already hired a well-known defamation lawyer in London, whose name he asked not to disclose, to advise him on the matter.
“There has been a systematic effort to defame me by extreme right-wing politicians whose anti-Semitic past and neo-Nazi ties I have exposed,” he told Haaretz. “These anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers are trying to launder their past and hide their present by joining mainstream political parties.” Mionis said he planned to file suits against “four or five” publications.
Mionis refused to come to Greece to appear before the parliamentary panel investigating why the government did not act immediately on information it received about possible widespread tax evasion by the country’s business elite. He said he had no intention of sitting in a room with Holocaust deniers.
As a result, three members of the committee will come to Israel on Friday to take his testimony in the Greek consular offices in Tel Aviv. Mionis will be questioned about his connection to a $550 million account that appeared on a list, published last year by Hot Doc magazine in Greece, of almost 2,000 accounts held by Greeks in Swiss banks.
The name on this particular account, the largest on the list, was that of a former employee of Mionis. Responding to initial allegations that the account was used to launder money for the mother of former Prime Minister George Papandreou, Mionis has declared that the account belonged collectively to six mutual funds he managed.
Ilias Kasidiaris, the only member of the far-right Golden Dawn Party who sits on the investigative committee, created a stir last week in parliament when he suggested that he himself was a Holocaust denier. After reporting that Mionis had refused to appear before the committee, he told parliament: “The Jew Sabby Mionis is key to this case …. He won’t come to this committee because there are Holocaust deniers on it. And indeed there are Holocaust deniers on it. We do not want to go to the murderous state of Zionists. When this man sets foot in our country, he will be brought to justice.”
Dimokratia and To Vima
Mionis refused to disclose which publications he plans to file suits against, but other Greek Jewish sources said the list was likely to include two important dailies, Dimokratia and To Vima, both of which have published allegations against him. The allegations have been published in recent months following disclosures in Greece about the Swiss bank accounts.
Among the allegations, all of which he categorically denies, Mionis has been accused of having business dealings with Bernard Madoff and Michael Milken. He has also been accused of involvement in a huge tax evasion case in the United States. In various reports in the Greek press, he has been referred to as a “dubious Jew.”
Mionis, who has focused on philanthropic work since moving to Israel, has already provided written testimony to the Greek parliamentary committee. He said he personally had not been accused of tax evasion or any other wrongdoing, noting that since he left Greece in 1988, he does not pay tax to the Greek authorities.
In columns he has published in Israel and the United States, Mionis has warned of neo-Nazis infiltrating the ruling New Democracy party, a mainstream conservative party. In particular, he has targeted MK Makis Voridis, who attended the same high school as Mionis did and now serves as New Democracy's parliamentary speaker.
In a Haaretz op-ed last year, Mionis wrote: “Voridis has a long history of Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism and xenophobia, including physical threats to Jewish families and leading groups of thugs against immigrants and leftists …. Voridis formed the fascist student group ‘Free Students’ that painted the walls with swastikas and saluted each other with using the Nazi-era greeting ‘Heil Hitler.’”
In a Hot Doc article in December, Kostas Vaxevanis, the magazine's owner and editor, noted the close personal ties between Voridis and the editors of two newspapers that had published allegations against Mionis, describing these relationships as “better than good.”
Responding to the Holocaust-denial comments made in the Greek parliament last week, the Anti-Defamation League expressed support for Mionis’ decision not to appear before the investigative committee.
“Mr. Kasidiaris was clearly referring to himself as the Holocaust denier in his hateful rhetoric since he is the only Golden Dawn member of the committee,” said Abraham H. Foxman, the ADL national director. “We expect Greek leaders to condemn such appalling statements made in parliament. No Jew anywhere should be compelled to engage with Holocaust deniers, and Mr. Mionis’ decision is certainly understandable and we commend him for his stance.”
The organization urged the Greek government to resolve differences in the coalition and swiftly pass new anti-racism legislation currently under consideration. The prime minister recently reneged on his support for such legislation.