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Society

Greece Pushed to Upgrade State Officials Corruption, Bribery to Felony

December 18, 2019

ATHENS – Greece’s government was urged to make major crimes such as corruption and bribery by state officials to felonies instead of misdemeanors after they were lessened by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA.

The recommendation came from the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) who earlier this year were critical of the Leftists for being lenient on major crimes.

In June, SYRIZA downgraded the crimes just before being ousted by New Democracy in July 7 snap elections but the Conservatives still haven’t moved to reinstate tougher laws even though a number of charges were dropped in the Siemens bribery scandal and other cases.

The new government did impose some stronger penalties for bribery but GRECO said they weren’t sufficient and New Democracy hasn’t explained why it hasn’t gotten tougher after complaining about what SYRIZA did and promising to crack down on crime.

“The June downgrading will have long standing retroactive consequences in Greece in respect of corruption offenses committed by public officials before 18 November 2019, which still will be considered as misdemeanors,” a report by the two groups said.

GRECO also said that aggravating circumstances in bribery should carry tougher penalties for offenders and called for changes to Article 236.1 of the Criminal Code. “The current situation conveys the message that this offense is considered less serious now than before,” they said, according to Kathimerini.

The report also calls on the government to ensure that passive bribery of foreign public officials, judges, members of assemblies, jurors and arbitrators is criminalized in accordance with Articles 5 and 6 of the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption.

GRECO also expressed concern that the laws exclude the country’s essentially symbolic President from any criminal liability for corruption offenses, giving that office blanket immunity for that major crime.

“The President of the Republic is undeniably a public official, regardless of whether his functions are only of a ceremonial nature, and the exclusion of bribery of the President from criminal liability in respect of corruption offences is a major shortcoming,” it said.

The report also said that Greece should comply with tougher international standards against money laundering and combating financing of terrorism, following a recent amendment for prosecuting money laundering.

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