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Greece Plans Big Corruption Fines

diafthora_246589692Hoping to one day shed the ignominious mantle of the most corrupt country in the European Union, the Greek government said it would file legislation to increase the fines for taking kickbacks and bribes to as much as 50 times the amount of the bribe.
The law – which also stipulates the introduction of so-called corruption prosecutors tasked with speeding up existing graft cases – is designed to combat bribe-taking across the state sector, from ministers and government officials to local administration staff.
The government said its aim was on medium- and low-level corruption, limiting the effect on major cases such as those involving politicians as the size of fines here will make them unlikely to be collected because bribe taking at that level runs into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Former defense minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, for example, who’s on trial for money-laundering and a range of corruption charges that prosecutors said could be as much as $1 billion, would face fines of $50 billion if the law were in effect earlier, an amount that is uncollectible, negating its effect for major graft cases and targeting small-level crimes instead.
Corruption is a common phenomenon in Greece, ranging from tax inspectors to driving license officials and civil servants and even doctors asking for money to do their jobs or provide special favors. After ranking 80th in the 176 countries on Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index in 2011, Greece’s global ranking fell to 94th in 2012, showing that corruption is getting worse during a crushing economic crisis that has driven people buried by austerity measures to find ways to cheat too.
More than 200 serious cases of alleged corruption in the public sector are expected to be under way at the Athens Court of First Instance as of mid-September. It’s typical for the cases to take up to 10 years to be heard.

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