New Democracy Says Not Soft On Money Launderers, Embezzlers

The National Herald

Government spokesman Stelios Petsas. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Stelios Misinas)

ATHENS – The New Democracy government, trying to rebut a report in the respected Financial Times a recent law will benefit the corrupt, money launderers and embezzlers it promised to to after said there are still provisions to prosecute them.

Spokesman Stelios Petsas said the revised penal code approved by the Parliament that the party controls allows an investigating magistrate or a judicial council of justices a period of three months in which to decide if an investigation will extend for 18 months, after which the accused have to be released, but he didn't directly contradict the news report.

"We sent a reply (to the Financial Times) regarding such past cases. Today we're waiting for its (reply) publication," Petsas said during an appearance during a morning newscast on Athens-based  SKAI TV.

He said the law fully harmonizes the country's penal code with civil law, while even referring to compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and pointed to the 18-month pre-trial detention period, which almost always expires before a defendant is taken to court, allowing them to be released in the meantime.

The major opposition and former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, which, just before being ousted in July 7 snap elections had passed laws lowering many crimes from felonies to misdemeanors and benefitting anarchists and terrorists, said the the Conservatives law is designed to help scandalized bankers, embezzlers, corporate fraudsters and shipping businesspeople.

New Democracy pushed through the Parliament a measure that will let people charged with fraud and money laundering to recover assets frozen by courts if they aren’t tried within 18 months, although the process takes three to five years or more.

That essentially means that everyone facing charges – a dozen Greek shipowners, prominent businesspeople and former bankers accused of breach of trust who are a core constituency of the party – could get back some $1.2 billion that had been seized, said the Financial Times.

The law, said the paper, appears to overturn Greece’s commitment to international standards on combating corruption and money-laundering and was an amendment tucked into a bill that reversed lenient sentencing passed SYRIZA for crimes such as rape and abuse of children, and opening the door for the possible release of anarchists and terrorists – a move decried by the Conservatives before they took power.

The Financial Action Task Force, the global anti-money laundering watchdog, and GRECO, the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption monitoring body, said cash and properties seized during a criminal probe should remain frozen until all judicial procedures are completed.

Justice Minister Kostas Tsiaras filed the amendment minutes before the final session of debate on the new law without giving a legal explanation of why Greece was breaking with its previous practice, the economic news site also said.