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Economy

Greek Tax Cheats Can Pick Community Service Over Jail Time

ATHENS – Greece’s New Democracy government, which pledged to go after tax cheats, now will let those convicted of that crime – already in jail – get out for community service, along with others convicted of non-violent crimes.

That would be under legislation being drafted by the ministries of Citizens’ Protection and Justice as part of a plan to decongest overpopulated prisons but not extending to violent offenders as the former Radical Left SYRIZA wanted to do.

Under the new rules, some 1,500 prisoners could receive their Get Out of Jail Card, the government wanting to lessen the numbers behind bars, prisons holding some 11,400 inmates in facilities with a maximum capacity of 9,700.

Tax evasion is rampant in Greece but it can take up to 10 years to get people into court and there are rarely any convictions of notable offenders or celebrities who sometimes get off easy.

The community service option is part of an ongoing overhaul of the penal code and is expected to go into effect in the first half of the year. The move is also seen aiding understaffed local government agencies, the paper said.

The government hasn’t, however, moved to fully bar furloughs for some criminals, a practice that under SYRIZA’s reign saw even terrorist killers such as former Nov. 17 ringleader Dimitris Koufodinas get vacation time.

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