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Greek pols immunizing themselves from graft claims

Despite decades of corruption that helped drive Greece into bankruptcy and a $300 billion international bailout, politicians there have passed a raft of new laws giving themselves and others immunity for graft.

Suzanne Daley of the New York Times said in a story Thursday that Leandros Rakintzis, the Greek inspector general, chastised Parliament last month “for passing laws legitimizing the illegal spending of state funds.”

Kostas Tzavaras, pictured, a lawmaker from the New Democracy party, has called for a formal investigation by the Supreme Court. Daley said he’s “not alone in speaking out about what he sees as quiet efforts to shut down corruption investigations and possibly prevent the clawing back of ill-gotten gains.”

“I don’t think it is right that we spend the money to investigate only to have the laws give immunity retroactively,” he told Daley in his Athens office.

“Maybe there should be protection for political decisions. But if you stole a million dollars you should be treated like a common criminal,” Tzavaras said.

The Association of Greek Judges and Prosecutors has denounced changes to Greece’s penal code, omnibus spending bill, and at least three other bills that contained new immunity provisions.

Daley said: “One [of the bills] offered protections for officials who had handled disbursements from a pension fund. Another protected officials who had overseen school building expenses. The third prohibited prosecution of high-level officials who had been working in the Health Ministry but had received postgraduate study benefits.”

Law enforcement officials and government critics have said one new law will protect bankers who gave loans to political parties. Another law stipulated that excess amounts of severance payments disbursed before 2011 should not be pursued.

“In addition,” Daley reported, “officials involved in Greece’s efforts to privatize state assets are to receive special immunities, as are members of Greece’s new Financial Stability Board, which was created to regulate how recapitalization money was allocated to Greek banks.”

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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