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Under SYRIZA Rule, Greece Plunges in Worldwide Corruption Report

January 30, 2019

Greece’s notorious bureaucracy, bribery and ongoing scandals saw the country fall eight places to 67th position in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index last for 2018.

The country scored 45 points in 2018, down from 48 in 2017, according to TI’s report released on Jan. 29. The report draws on surveys and expert assessments to measure public sector corruption in 180 countries and territories, giving scores from zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

Greece ranked between the two bottom scorers in Europe: Hungary (46) and Bulgaria (42).

Although it fell, the score is still nine points higher than in 2012, marking some improvement. “One explanation for this is that since the financial crisis in 2008, the country undertook several structural reforms so as to balance severe austerity measures,” Transparency said.

Despite the structural improvements, progress on reducing corruption has halted in Greece and the country is saddled with burdensome bureaucracy, the report said, Kathimerini reported in a review on the findings.

Transparency cited a series of scandals in 2018 which undermined anti-corruption efforts, including allegations that 10 rival politicians of the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA took bribes from the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis.

That was based on the testimony of three secret whistleblowers, one of whom has been unmasked and with the others said to be changing their stories without providing of shred of evidence beyond reportedly saying they knew or or overheard of corruption.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared the accused as guilty without any proof but more troublesome for him, the report cited his appointment of former Supreme Court judge Vassiliki Thanou as his legal advisor and head of the Hellenic Competition Commission – the body that oversees the enforcement of anti-trust legislation, raising worries about conflict of interest. “The appointment ultimately challenges the independence of the institution,” TI said.

Major opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis had asked European Union to intervene in the nomination of  Thanou to be the director of the country’s Competition Commission.

Earlier, she was blasted by former colleagues in the union of judges and prosecutors (EDE), who described her stepping into an alleged scandal over the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis as an “institutional faux pas.”

Thanou questioned the legality of convening the appeals court plenary so that the Novartis case file could go to an investigative magistrate.

“It is not our business to throw politicians a lifeline,” Nikolaos Salatas, General Secretary of EDE, told Thema 104.6 radio, accusing Thanou of double standards over the case as she had tried to raise judges’ retirement age while she was still Supreme Court chief.
Critics also said that Thanou has tried to influence legislation to benefit SYRIZA.

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