In the past two weeks, Greek prosecutors have brought corruption charges against several current and former government officials and business leaders. These cases stem from bribery and money laundering committed during the financial crisis that began in 2008.
As Sunday’s New York Times states: ‘prosecutors have more influence than ever as Greeks smarting from more than three years of austerity demand punishment for those who ransacked state coffers and pushed Greece close to bankruptcy.’ Prosectors are pursuing investigations without waiting for politicians to act as they believe elected officials have lingered on the sidelines for too long.
Within the past couple of weeks, the following have been charged:
Dimitris Papachristos: He was arrested today as part of a probe into kickbacks from state defense deals. Reportedly ratted out by ex-Defense Ministry official Antonis Kantas, Papachristos is charged with giving a 750,000-euro under-the-table payment to Kantas for the purchase of several self-propelled howitzers.
In several days of testimony last week, Kantas implicated several politicians, including former minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, in under-the-table payments for the purchase of tanks and other defense procurement. Tsochatzopulos is already in jail, having been convicted of money laundering last October.
Dimistris Kontominas: Owner of a television station and insurance company, he was charged with fraud and money laundering. He allegedly received unsecured loans from a state-run bank, Hellenic Postbank, to the tune of 110 million euros.
Angelos Filippidis: He is the former chief executive of Hellenic Postbank and was arrested, along with several of his colleagues, for granting such unsecured loans without guarantees to businessmen like Kontominas. The loan scandal at Hellenic Postbank is estimated to have cost the bank $678 million. He is in a Turkish jail awaitijng extradition to Greece.
Sotiris Emmanouil: Managing director of the country’s Skaramangas shipyards, he is charged with taking $31 million in bribes to nab a submarine deal with the German company Ferrostaal.
Michael Liapis: A former conservative minister in the Greek New Democracy party, he is being investigated for using European Union subsidies to renovate his holiday home and for driving with a fake license plate to avoid paying increased road taxes.
The prosecutors’ zeal in these cases is not typical. Greece is not a country in which top-ranking state officials often face prosecution for their fraudulent behavior.
And austerity measures mean that this sudden push to bring bad actors to justice is not easily accomplished. As prosecutors told the New York Times, they are not allowed to make international calls from their offices, so they make them on their personal mobile phones, racking up large bills.
The intent is to bring some of the ill-gotten gains home to the Greek people. Some of the bribe money has already been recovered, $23 million at last count, and the prosecutors are not showing signs of slowing down.
Julie DiMauro is the executive editor of FCPA Blog and can be reached here.