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Trends and climate

Trends

Have there been any recent changes in the enforcement of anti-corruption regulations?

Provisions on enforcement and anti-corruption regulation have been amended repeatedly during the past five years. A major reform of the relevant legislation took place in 2014 with the aim of unifying provisions included in various international instruments and restructuring enforcement agencies’ functions. This reform was combined with extensive amendments to tax legislation and selective changes to anti-money laundering regulations.

Legislative activity

Are there plans for any changes to the law in this area?

At present, there is no public discussion for possible changes to the law.

Legal framework

Authorities

Which authorities are responsible for investigating bribery and corruption in your jurisdiction?

Law 4022/2011 provides for a special investigatory body (staffed by investigating judges with the first-instance court in Athens) responsible for acts of corruption. In 2013, pursuant to Law 4139/2013, a separate prosecutor’s office was established to deal with acts of corruption and coordinate the investigations of the special investigation judges under Law 4022/2011. The Prosecutor’s Office Against Corruption supervises all preliminary inquiries relating to corruption and main investigations according to Law 4022/2011. These legal changes facilitate:

  • speedier investigation of such crimes;
  • quicker referral to trial;
  • instant freezing of assets; and
  • the full support of other agencies in terms of gathering and processing evidence.

Law 4022/2011 applies to serious crimes (felonies) committed by ministers and deputy ministers, members of parliament, deputy officials, public servants and employees of state-controlled institutions.

Domestic law

What are the key legislative and regulatory provisions relating to bribery and corruption in your jurisdiction?

The primary provisions in this regard are contained in the Criminal Code and include:

  • Article 235, which punishes passive bribery;
  • Article 237, which punishes passive bribery and active bribery involving members of the judiciary;
  • Article 237A, which punishes trading in influence; and
  • Article 159, which punishes passive bribery of political officers. 

International conventions

What international anti-corruption conventions apply in your jurisdiction?

The primary international conventions incorporated into Greek law include:

  • the UN Convention Against Corruption (Law 3666/2008);
  • the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption and Additional Protocol (Law 3560/2007);
  • the EU Convention on the Protection of the European Communities’ Financial Interests (Law 2803/2000);
  • the EU Convention Against Corruption Involving Officials of the European Communities or Officials of Member States of the European Union (Official Journal C195 of June 25 1997) (Law 2802/2000); and
  • the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions (Law 2656/1998).

Specific offences and restrictions

Offences

What are the key corruption and bribery offences in your jurisdiction?

The primary offences under the Criminal Code are:

  • passive bribery (Article 235);
  • active bribery (Article 236);
  • passive and active bribery involving members of the judiciary (Article 237);
  • trading in influence (Article 237A); and
  • passive bribery of political officers (Article 159). 

Hospitality restrictions

Are specific restrictions in place regarding the provision of hospitality (eg, gifts, travel expenses, meals and entertainment)? If so, what are the details?

Despite the broad wording of the relevant law, anti-bribery legislation does not apply to symbolic gifts or gifts of courtesy; these are determined primarily with regard to the scope of the gift and the openness with which it is given. However, the relevant corruption laws may still apply where such gifts (eg, travel expenses, meals and entertainment) are used systematically in an attempt to influence public officials.

Facilitation payments

What are the rules relating to facilitation payments?

The previous legislation (which was in force for more than 40 years) permitted specific types of company (mainly those exporting goods, as well as the press) to register payments in their financial records without reference to invoices or specific transactions up to approximately 3% of annual gross income. This allowed such companies to facilitate payments without needing to keep supporting documentation (eg, invoices with a description of the supplied service) or justify the need for such expenses. However, this is no longer permitted as of January 1 2004 and all payments and expenses must be duly justified. If not duly registered, such payments fall under the category of receiving or giving a gift or benefits indirectly through third persons. In addition, this type of payment may be questionable in terms of the criminal provisions of tax regulations (eg, Article 19 of Law 2523/1997, concerning the registration of a fictitious or false transaction in tax records).

Rules and regulations on money laundering may also apply if payments are connected to questionable conduct (eg, the proceeds of crime).

Liability

Scope of liability

Can both individuals and companies be held liable under anti-corruption rules in your jurisdiction?

Greek law provides that only individuals may be held liable for criminal acts; as such, the traditional punishments apply (eg, imprisonment). However, following passage of Law 2656/1998 (which incorporated into domestic law the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions), there is now a specific provision for penalties – in the form of administrative fines – against legal entities benefitting from acts of bribery of foreign public officials. Article 51 of Law 3691/2008 (on money laundering) establishes the liability of legal entities for acts of active or passive bribery of public officials, political officials or judges that are committed in the legal entities’ favour by individuals empowered to act on their behalf (eg, managers and directors) or make decisions in relation to the company’s activities. Article 51 also provides for a series of administrative penalties (eg, fines, prohibition of business activities, ban from public tenders). This provision applies to perpetrators, accessories and instigators alike.

Can agents or facilitating parties be held liable for bribery offences and if so, under what circumstances?

Articles 235 and 236 of the Criminal Code (covering passive and active bribery) are worded broadly and may encompass all transactions by any person directly or indirectly involved, such as agents or third parties. Both provisions make special reference to intermediaries in acts of bribery. Intermediaries or third parties may thus be held criminally liable if such transactions are carried out within the context of corruption. 

Foreign companies

Can foreign companies be prosecuted for corruption in your jurisdiction?

Strictly speaking, legal entities cannot be held criminally liable under Greek law; foreign companies therefore cannot be criminally prosecuted for foreign bribery. In addition, the Greek administrative authorities have no jurisdiction to impose measures and penalties on foreign companies, even in cases involving Greek interests (eg, where criminal proceedings open against individuals working with foreign entities or third parties (intermediaries) acting in Greece or in relation to facilitating payments to foreign or domestic public officials).

Whistleblowing and self-reporting

Whistleblowing

Are whistleblowers protected in your jurisdiction?

There are no specific provisions protecting whistleblowers in relation to acts of corruption in the public or private sector. Whistleblowers may be considered as witnesses in the public interest, which results in complete protection from criminal prosecution with respect to offences such as disclosure of privileged information or filing a false complaint relating to the information that the whistleblower provides to the authorities according to the newly introduced Article 45B of the Code of Civil Procedure.

Self-reporting

Is it common for leniency to be shown to organisations that self-report and/or cooperate with authorities? If so, what process must be followed?

There is no general provision for leniency measures applicable to companies or legal entities with respect to acts of corruption, as is the case in other aspects of company activities (eg, under anti-competition regulations). However, as the authorities have discretion over the administrative penalties to be imposed, they may apply the minimum fine and no other penalties, depending on the case.

Dispute resolution and risk management

Pre-court settlements

Is it possible for anti-corruption cases to be settled before trial by means of plea bargaining or settlement agreements?

Plea bargaining agreements and settlement agreements are generally not provided for under Greek law. They are available in relation to property-related crimes (eg, misappropriation of property), but not for acts of bribery. Corruption cases with a substantial factual basis are referred to trial, following the procedure of filing charges, investigation and indictment. Tax-related aspects of bribery cases may be resolved through settlement agreements. In corruption cases, it is not uncommon to have related charges of money-laundering or tax offences. On such occasions, not all charges may be dismissed or resolved through settlement agreements with the prosecuting authorities.

There are provisions for lighter sentencing and even suspension of criminal proceedings against individuals involved in acts of corruption who provide substantial information on acts committed by higher-ranking officials, members of government or judges. Article 263B of the Criminal Code provides for leniency measures applicable to perpetrators of bribery (either passive or active). Individuals who have participated in active bribery and report the bribed official’s criminal conduct to the authorities and make substantial disclosure as to the official’s criminal acts are eligible:

  • to receive a lighter sentence (possibly as low as one to three years in prison, instead of five to 10 years); or
  • to be granted a suspension of the criminal proceedings against them at the indicting court’s discretion or a suspension of their sentence.

Defences

Are any types of payment procedure exempt from liability under the corruption regulations in your jurisdiction?

Since payments are considered on an ad hoc basis, there is no general rule for exempting specific types or categories of payment from liability under corruption regulations. 

What other defences are available and who can qualify?

In the Greek legal system, the prosecutor is not a party to the proceedings as a plaintiff; rather, the prosecutor is in charge of the case until its referral to trial and is obliged to include in the proceedings all evidence available – not only evidence substantiating the prosecution, but also evidence exonerating the defendant.

In any event, the burden of proof always lies with the prosecution. A defendant may put forward defences on the merits and on points of law (eg, regarding required intent, ignorance or misconception of applicable law, or ignorance or misconception of the facts). Affirmative defences must be proven by the party raising them.

Risk management

What compliance procedures and policies can a company put in place to assist in the creation of safe harbours?

It is in a company’s best interest to adopt compliance procedures to deal effectively with corrupt practices. Although there are no specific provisions stipulating what constitutes an effective compliance programme, national and international standards on best practices and transparency are useful to this effect. According to these standards, an effective compliance programme should include:

  • internal control procedures;
  • proper record keeping and regular audits;
  • standard procedures in respect to payments (eg, required documentation and authorisations); and
  • regular review of internal procedures and employees’ compliance with these procedures.

While compliance programmes minimise the risk of involvement in corrupt practices, they cannot completely eliminate the possibility of such incidents.

Record keeping and reporting

Record keeping and accounting

What legislation governs the requirements for record keeping and accounting in your jurisdiction?

The Code of Registration of Tax Records, the Code of Taxation and the Regulation on Money Laundering (last amended by Law 3691/2008) contain the relevant rules. Corporate books and records must be kept in a legally defined way. Specific provisions stipulate what may be regarded as a questionable transaction and what may be recorded in accounts. Financial statements are filed with the Revenue Service annually. Statements of value added tax are filed monthly (for large corporations). Internal auditors co-sign the annual financial statements, which are verified by an external auditor (who bears responsibility for the accuracy of filed statements).

Continuous amendments of the relevant tax legislation intend to minimise deficiencies in accounting registration and improper registration of transactions. This is done by giving accountants responsibility for the accurate registration of available documentation and tax information in respect to business transactions. 

What are the requirements for record keeping?

There are many specifications regarding proper record keeping for legal entities, depending on their nature and size. Larger companies must follow national and international accounting standards, register all transactions with supporting documentation and closely monitor their cash flows. They must also engage external auditors. 

Reporting

What are the requirements for companies regarding disclosure of potential violations of anti-corruption regulations?

Anti-bribery laws do not explicitly demand disclosure of violations. In the context of money laundering regulations, compliance and internal audit control, there are obligations to expose and report irregularities relating to financial records or suspicious transactions. Since there are no legal requirements to expose violations of anti-corruption regulation and companies – unlike individuals – are not entitled to immunity or leniency when exposing such violations, the risk of disclosure lies with the company, which may disclose irregularities but still face consequences (eg, fines or civil penalties).

Penalties

Individuals

What penalties are available to the courts for violations of corruption laws by individuals?

The basic penalty for individuals with respect to passive bribery is imprisonment (up to five years) and a fine ranging from €5,000 to €50,000. If the perpetrator committed such an act in the course of his or her profession or repeatedly, or if the gift or benefit is of high value, the act constitutes a felony punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years (with a minimum sentence of five years) and a fine ranging from €10,000 to €100,000.

If the act is committed contrary to one’s duties, a prison sentence up to 10 years and a fine ranging from €15,000 to €150,000 may be imposed. If the perpetrator committed such an act in the course of his or her profession or repeatedly, or if the gift or benefit is of high value, a prison sentence of up to 15 years and a fine ranging from €15,000 to €150,000 may be imposed.

The act of active bribery is punishable with imprisonment (up to five years) and a fine ranging from €5,000 to €50,000. If the bribed official acted contrary to his or her duties, this constitutes a felony punishable by imprisonment of up to 10 years (with a minimum sentence of five years) and a fine ranging from €10,000 to €100,000.

Companies or organisations

What penalties are available to the courts for violations of corruption laws by companies or organisations?

The liability of legal entities for violations of corruption laws comes in the form of administrative penalties, since under Greek law legal entities may not be held criminally liable. Fines and penalties relating to the entity’s activities are the two main types of penalty.

The authorities may impose any or all of the following penalties on legal entities not covered by special provisions of anti-money laundering legislation:

  • fines ranging from €20,000 to €2 million;
  • permanent suspension of business activities or a temporary suspension ranging from one month to two years;   
  • prohibition of specific business activities (eg, share capital increases) for a period ranging from one month to two years; and
  • a permanent or temporary ban (ranging from one month to two years) on access to public tenders or state funding. 

Legal entities covered by anti-money laundering legislation (eg, financial institutions) may incur fines ranging from €50,000 to €5 million.