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Political pressure has made two economic prosecutors in Greece resign

29 December 2011 / 15:12:37  GRReporter
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Resignations of two prosecutors from the service fighting economic crimes have stirred up the spirits in Greece and again brought to the surface the issue of corruption and questionable political interference in the activities of various controlling bodies in the country. Grigoris Peponis and Spiros Mouzakitis have officially filed their resignations to the deputy prosecutor Nikos Pandelis this week, pointing out that the political pressures and constraints they are facing in their work are hindering the proper performance of their tasks.

"Despite the general negative mood and with the complete understanding of the peculiarities of the Greek reality and of the growing financial crime, we have assumed our appointment inspired by the possibilities for change and the commitment to fulfil our duty." They suggest that their efforts to unravel specific cases were spoiled one way or another. "We do not strive to be liked, nor are we willing to tolerate different types of economic interests." Peponis and Mouzakitis stress that their main purpose was to enforce the law and to solve the cases assigned to them in the most equitable way.

They took up the posts of economic prosecutors in September 2010. The official version of the political government was that a similar service will get to the bottom of many doubtful cases and will punish at least some of those responsible for the draining of vital resources from the treasury.

The economic prosecutors have investigated some of the hottest scandals in recent years. Among them are: 1. Alleged falsification of data from the revised deficit in 2009, which has led to the debt crisis and the need for financial assistance; 2. Claims of the former deputy Minister of Finance Dimitris Kouselas that there is a list of the most serious cases of tax unfairness, but nothing has been done about it; 3. Complaints that executive bodies delay the payment of fines for violations of established smuggling of fuel; 4. The scandal of corruption with the defective military submarines; 5. Complaints against certain senior tax officials who make unjustified "discounts" to certain citizens with large debts to the treasury; 6. The involvement of the name of the brother of former Prime Minister George Papandreou in the trade of CDS insurance on Greek government bonds and the persons behind the offshore companies running these transactions in Greece; 7. Questionable bank financing of parties as the only guarantee of their future state subsidies, which they will get after coming to power.

It has long been known in the Court of Appeal that the two prosecutors were not supported in carrying out their duties. Their request for appointing a judicial officer to assist in the investigation has not been taken into consideration for seven months. It is an open secret that there were no computers in the office granted by the Ministry of Finance and Mouzakitis and Peponis had even used their personal laptops. The last straw was the change in the law that determines the activity of their service. It repeals the activities of economic prosecutors and the cases they investigate will be transferred to the deputy prosecutor of the Supreme Court, who has a lot of work. According to Peponis and Mouzakitis, this action is an elegant "riddance" of their presence in the system at the time of the release of two extremely embarrassing reports. One for the case of corruption with the defective submarines, which cost around four billion euro to the Greek state and another one with the list of more than 14,000 wealthy Greeks who owe to the state amounts in unpaid taxes exceeding € 150,000 each.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Evangelos Venizelos and his colleague, the Minister of Justice Miltiadis Papaioannou, have proved to be surprised and even astonished by the decision of both economic prosecutors to resign. The claims of political pressure exerted were identified as ungrounded and exaggerated, and the transfer of their duties to the Supreme Court was justified with the excuse that it would only further improve the performance of the service fighting economic crimes. The Ministers insist that the government structures are working well and that serious steps have been made in the fight against tax fraud and unfairness.

However, facts do not lie. Representatives of prosecution circles point out that almost all those arrested for particularly large debts to the state are released in less than a day, and that the changes in the Bankruptcy Code and the notorious Article 99 serve long-time incorrect debtors. Lack of transparency, close connections between the political system and certain corporate interests, tax fraud, unpaid obligations to the state are part of the most serious problems of Greece. Local economists and politicians and the members of the Troika of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission share this view too. The informal economy consumes tens of billions of euro each year. Experts argue that tax and other controlling authorities do little or nothing to prevent such incidents. It is to be clarified whether there will be a political investigation of the growing scandal, as the opposition insists.

Tags: EconomyPoliticsProsecutorsEconomic crimesGreece
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