ATHENS – New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the omnibus reform bill rammed through Parliament by the ruling SYRIZA party removes a ban on politicians and public officials from being involve in offshore firms.
A number of political and public figures in Greece have been tied to the firms in recent years to launder money, such as former Defense Minister Akis Tzochatsopoulos, who was convicted in a massive bribery scheme and jailed for 20 years.
“We are asking why the government did this,” Mitsotakis told ANT-1 TV. “They should explain who this provision is for.”
PASOK and To Potami joined in demanding explanations from the government after the change in the legislation was reported by Proto Thema newspaper.
Mitsotakis admitted that his party had failed to spot it, blaming the fact that MPs had to get through 7,500 pages of draft legislation in 48 hours.
Before the amendment, politicians were banned from holding any stake in offshore firms. The new legislation only prevents them from being involved in companies that are not deemed to co-operate on tax issues but they are free to be part of others.
The government said that the change was made following a recommendation by the Council of Europe’s GRECO anti-corruption unit but didn’t explain.
Mitsotakis said the new law appears to give politicians and public officials a free hand in dealing with overseas accounts at a time when the government was also seeking to have people with secret foreign accounts put their money in Greek banks.
“We are asking the government to explain the situation because it is difficult for citizens to understand why politicians should be allowed to have involvement in offshore firms,” he said of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ earlier pledges to cut corruption and make politicians more transparent.
The Justice Ministry has said it is open to proposals from the opposition parties regarding improvements to the new law, which it denied is designed to provide legal cover for any existing politicians, Kathimerini said.