Following heavy criticism against Greece from the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for having downgraded and softened its anti-corruption legislation, GRECO published a report today concluding that the Greek government has to some extent re-introduced more appropriate sanctions in this respect.
In June this year, the Greek Parliament downgraded bribery of public officials from a felony offence to a misdemeanour, thus introducing more lenient criminal sanctions for such crimes. GRECO and the OECD reacted strongly to these measures and opened joint “ad-hoc” procedures, including dialogue with the Minister of Justice and other Greek officials, which resulted in the reintroduction, to some extent, of stronger criminal legislation in respect of bribery offences as of 18 November 2019.
this positive development, GRECO notes with concern that the June downgrading will have longstanding retroactive consequences in Greece in respect of corruption offences committed by public officials before 18 November 2019, which still will be considered as misdemeanours.
Moreover, GRECO recommends that the Greek authorities introduce a system where aggravating circumstances in respect of bribery offences have a stronger impact on the sanctions to be applied. While GRECO is pleased that the power of the Minister of Justice to suspend criminal proceedings harmful to international relations has been excluded in respect of corruption offences, it recommends to broaden the reach of Greek criminal legislation in respect of bribery offences in the foreign context, in accordance with the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention, to which Greece is a party.
GRECO also noted that a new general feature of the criminal legislation allows the prosecutor to abstain from prosecution in respect of misdemeanours punishable with up to three years’ imprisonment. This measure may further weaken the fight against corruption and possibly other related crimes, such as money laundering.
reiterates the need for Greece to comply with international standards against money laundering and combating financing of terrorism, in relation to a recent initiative to amend the money laundering legislation. These standards contribute to an effective fight against corruption as well.
Finally, GRECO is concerned that Greek criminal law currently provides for a total exemption of criminal liability in respect of corruption committed in regard of the President of the Republic – whether this concerns the receiving or giving of a bribe – and urges the Greek authorities to reconsider this situation.