ATHENS/FRANKFURT – Yanis Varoufakis divulged the details on how Greece could sneak out of the euro “without telling anyone” in a conference call released Monday.
With a plan to secretly append a new bank account to each citizen or company’s tax number, Greek officials war-gamed the creation of a parallel system to the single currency, according to the former finance minister. Varoufakis’ resignation, 10 days before he made the comments on a call with investors on July 16, leaves open the question of whether the plans have been torn up or just shelved.
Since then, Greece has managed to win some reprieve from the threat of default by agreeing to austerity measures with creditors that the former minister opposed. That said, with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ parliamentary majority dwindling, stalling implementation could herald the return of euro-exit talk before long.
“The job was strictly to study the operational issues that would arise if Greece were forced to issue scrip or if it were forced out of the euro,” James K. Galbraith, a professor at the University of Texas and a member of the finance ministry’s contingency plan, said in a statement. “At no time was the Working Group engaged in advocating exit or any policy choice.”
A spokeswoman for the Greek government wasn’t immediately available for comment on the plans.
Varoufakis spoke on a conference call organized by the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum on July 16. The London-based body released a recording of the call Monday, after Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported its contents.
“We were planning to create, surreptitiously, reserve accounts attached to every tax file number, without telling anyone, just to have this system in a function under wraps,” Varoufakis said in the recording. He added that the group’s work was authorized by Tsipras, although it had never been ordered to be put into action.
A statement released by Varoufakis’ parliamentary office Monday said the ministry “would have been remiss” if it hadn’t had contingency plans in place. The statement denied that the tax-number plans mentioned by the former minister on the call were “not part of the working group’s remit.”
Greek banks remain under capital controls four weeks after Tsipras called a referendum on a bailout plan offered by the European Union. After voters delivered a resounding “no” vote to the economic conditions attached, Tsipras went on to agree to a plan on similar terms under pressure of financial collapse.
“We were ready to get the green light from the PM when the banks closed in order to move,” Varoufakis said.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.