ATHENS – After claiming only rival parties were corrupt and demanding stronger penalties, the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has proposed changes to the law that would be more lenient for state embezzlers.
Justice Minister Mihalis Kalogirou announced wholesale changes to the Greek penal and criminal procedure codes that will abolish the law for embezzling that the government said was too harsh because it allows for life sentences although some politicians convicted were let out after a few years after claiming ill health.
That includes former defense minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, now walking around Athens and seen eating lobster spaghetti after serving only a few years after being convicted of stealing scores of millions of euros from defense contracts.
Tsipras also has claimed, without a shred of evidence, that 10 rival politicians took bribes from the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis to push its products, based on hearsay evidence from three whistleblowers, two of whom remain unidentified.
Based on the changes, those who embezzle state money will be convicted to a maximum of 15 years in prison, while their crimes shall be time-barred after 20 years, said Kathimerini, but if they repay all that they stole they could get favorable treatment not given those convicted of lesser crimes, or even be designated acquitted although found guilty.
The law also expands the role of the prosecutors who will have all the powers of the investigative magistrates except from ordering pre-trial detention but who could set aside cases they don’t think are serious or negotiate plea bargains instead of going to court.
The draft law abolishes fines as a penalty to avoid prison with wealthy people convicted of crimes able to avoid going to jail by buying out their time for penalties as low as 5 euros ($5.62) a day.