Use the Lexology Getting The Deal Through tool to compare the answers in this article with those from other jurisdictions.

Civil asset recovery

Parallel proceedings

Is there any restriction on civil proceedings progressing in parallel with, or in advance of, criminal proceedings concerning the same subject matter?

No.

Forum

In which court should proceedings be brought?

A victim of fraud may file an action in tort against the defendant with the competent court of first instance seeking restitution for the loss or damage sustained (article 914 et seq of the Greek Civil Code (GCivC)).

The general rule lies with the jurisdiction of the courts of the defendant’s place of residence (article 22 of the Greek Code of Civil Procedure (CCivPr)) or, concurrently in the case of tort (article 35 CCivPr), of the courts of the location where the damaging incident took place or where such damaging effect is threatened.

With regard to the monetary value of the claim, as a general rule, Greek courts of first instance are divided into the following:

  • courts of small claims: hearing disputes up to €20,000;
  • single-member courts of first instance: hearing disputes from €20,000 to €250,000; and
  • multi-member courts of first instance: hearing disputes exceeding €250,000.

Limitation

What are the time limits for starting civil court proceedings?

The right of the defrauded party to issue civil court proceedings lapses five years after the claimant has acquired knowledge of the commission of the fraudulent act and the party liable for compensation. Furthermore, the claim is proscribed after 20 years from the date the wrongful act was committed. If the fraudulent act also constitutes a criminal offence, which is subject to a longer limitation period, preclusion of the civil claims follows the latter (article 937 GCivC). The limitation period of the civil action is interrupted after filing said action with the competent court of first instance.

Jurisdiction

In what circumstances does the civil court have jurisdiction? How can a defendant challenge jurisdiction?

See question 2. Although the court may decide on its own initiative regarding matters of jurisdiction, the defendant could challenge jurisdiction by filing an objection during the stage of the filing of the pleadings.

Time frame

What is the usual time frame for a claim to reach trial?

According to the CCivPr, the claimant has to serve the civil complaint on the defendant within 30 days of its submission to the competent court. Should the defendant reside abroad or his or her address is unknown, the deadline is 60 days.

Following the submission of the civil complaint, a period of 100 days is granted to the parties to file their pleading, as well as all supporting evidence. For defendants residing abroad, the deadline is 130 days.

After the expiry of the above-mentioned deadline for the pleadings, the parties are granted 15 additional days to file their rebuttals. After expiry of the rebuttals deadline, the case file is considered complete and a judge is assigned to the case.

Within 30 days of assignment of the judge, a trial date is set.

Admissibility of evidence

What rules apply to the admissibility of evidence in civil proceedings?

All information obtained lawfully may constitute means of proof and be used as such in civil proceedings before the courts. The general principle is that evidence must be relevant to the case under consideration and focus on the factual basis of the civil action (article 335 CCivPr). Means of proof under article 339 of the CCivPr are as follows:

  • the confession of a litigant;
  • the inspection of premises;
  • the experts’ reports;
  • the witnesses and their testimonies before the courts;
  • the examination of litigants;
  • the documents;
  • the judicial presumptions; and
  • the sworn written testimonies.

The evaluation of evidence is made freely by the court, except for facts stated in public documents or facts confessed by litigants, which are accepted as true. The court may weigh the specific means of evidence in any way it deems proper to reach its ruling (article 340 CCivPr). Moreover, the civil court’s decision must expressly state the reasons that led the judge to reach his or her ruling.

Witnesses

What powers are available to compel witnesses to give evidence?

Witnesses cannot be compelled to provide evidence in civil proceedings.

Publicly available information

What sources of information about assets are publicly available?

  • The Land Registry, which includes the following:
  • mortgage offices: in mortgage offices a property cannot be located by its address, but it is registered under the name of the owner of the property because properties are registered based on the legal titles (contracts) regarding their transfer; and
  • cadastre offices, which are gradually replacing mortgage offices;
  • the General Commercial Registry (GEMH), which has been established by Law No. 3419/2005 to promote transparency when conducting commercial activity. It is expected that, once the GEMH becomes fully operational and functional, corporate information on all types of companies registered with the GEMH shall easily become publicly available to third parties, unless public disclosure is not required or is prohibited by law. Until now, corporate information on the registration, corporate status, articles of association, existing directors and their duties, annual financial statements, etc, of companies was only publicly available, with respect to limited and public limited companies, through announcements of their corporate actions made in the Greek Government Gazette, available online at www.et.gr; and
  • the Trademark Registry, which is accessible through the competent office of the Ministry of Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks.

Cooperation with law enforcement agencies

Can information and evidence be obtained from law enforcement and regulatory agencies for use in civil proceedings?

Evidence from law enforcement and regulatory agencies may be obtained for use in civil proceedings. The litigant must file a request in which he or she has to specify the reasons for which he or she is interested in obtaining the evidence. Permission shall be granted by the prosecutor and the investigating judge, or by the president of the court (article 147 of the Greek Code of Criminal Procedure (GCCP)), on condition that the litigant proves that he or she has a legal interest in obtaining such evidence.

Moreover, if the litigant is a party in criminal proceedings who has access to documents of the case file, he or she may in principle use this evidence in civil proceedings.

Third-party disclosure

How can information be obtained from third parties not suspected of wrongdoing?

A litigant may file an application with the court for the presentation of a specific document by another litigant or a third party (article 450 et seq CCivPr). The party filing the application should expressly and in great detail specify in its application the document, disclosure of which is sought. An order granting or dismissing the application is issued by the competent court.

Interim relief

What interim relief is available pre-judgment to prevent the dissipation of assets by, and to obtain information from, those suspected of involvement in the fraud?

In urgent circumstances, even before or after the commencement of ordinary proceedings, a claimant having legal interest may apply for an interim injunction or provisional order, seeking freezing of movable or real estate assets, or rights in rem over such assets, as well as claims with respect to them, mandatory injunctions, prohibitory injunctions and interim payments (articles 683 et seq, 691 et seq and 707 et seq CCivPr).

The range of such injunctions is wide, thus empowering the judge to shape them in the manner most appropriate for each particular case. Interim injunctions and provisional orders are granted upon application of the claimant to the single-member court of first instance, whereas provisional orders may also be issued ex parte, even without the service of a notice to the opposing litigant. Injunctions that are granted prior to the commencement of ordinary proceedings automatically cease to exist unless an action is filed by the claimant within 30 days or within the time frame set by the court.

Non-compliance with court orders

How do courts punish failure to comply with court orders?

Punishment owing to failure to comply with interim measures is provided for by article 232A of the Greek Criminal Code (GCC). According to this article, anyone who intentionally fails to comply with a temporary order of a judge or court, or with a provision of a court decision by which they are obliged to act or to refrain from acting, may be punished by up to one year’s imprisonment.

Also, article 397 GCC provides protection against a defendant who tries to conceal, transfer, destroy, etc, his or her property in order to prevent the enforcement of a judgment. According to this article, a debtor who intentionally frustrates, in whole or in part, the satisfaction of his or her debt by damaging, destroying, transferring without value, concealing or appropriating without equivalent and marketable collateral any of his or her property, or who creates false debits of false contracts, shall be punished by imprisonment of up to two years or by pecuniary penalty.

Obtaining evidence from other jurisdictions

How can information be obtained through courts in other jurisdictions to assist in the civil proceedings?

Judicial cooperation in civil matters is based on multilateral or bilateral translational agreements, or EU regulations. Greece is a signatory state to multilateral agreements within the scope of international organisations, such as the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Hague Conference, etc. In this case, the Ministry of Justice operates as the competent authority that exchanges information in the field of civil law, acts as an intermediary authority for providing judicial assistance, facilitates the commencement and continuation of judicial procedures, etc.

Evidence located in foreign jurisdictions shall be obtained through the following instruments:

  • European Council Regulation (EC) No. 1206/2001 on cooperation between the courts of the member states in the taking of evidence in civil or commercial matters; and
  • the Hague Convention of 1970 on the taking of evidence abroad in civil and commercial matters.

Greece is also a party to numerous bilateral agreements with other states regarding civil matters.

Assisting courts in other jurisdictions

What assistance will the civil court give in connection with civil asset recovery proceedings in other jurisdictions?

Recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in Greece is done by virtue of EU law regulations with regard to judgments issued in EU member states, bilateral international conventions between Greece and other countries, ratified by the Greek parliament with regard to judgments issued by the courts of those countries, and the provisions of the CCivPr for judgments from all other countries.

EU regulations

Greece, as an EU member, is a party to and bound by the following EU regulations in the field of ‘judicial cooperation in civil matters’:

  • European Council Regulation (EC) No. 44/2001 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (Brussels I Regulation);
  • Regulation (EC) No. 805/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 creating a European Enforcement Order for uncontested claims (EEO Regulation); and
  • Regulation (EC) No. 1896/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December creating a European Order for Payment procedure (EOP Regulation).

Judgments and payment orders issued in another EU member state and falling within the scope of application of the above regulations are automatically recognised in Greece and are declared enforceable under the Regulations’ provisions. Reasons that would bar enforceability of such judgments in Greece are strictly those mentioned in the above regulations. The competent court for the declaration of the enforceability of an EU judgment in Greece is the single-member court of first instance (article 39 Brussels I Regulation). The relevant judgment is issued ex parte, on the basis of the documents submitted by the claimant. If the defendant so wishes, he or she may file an appeal before the competent court of appeal to challenge the judgment of the single-member court of first instance (article 43 et seq Brussels I Regulation). In such instance, a full hearing shall take place before the court of appeal, although no review as to the substance of the foreign judgment is allowed to take place (article 45(2) Brussels I Regulation).

Recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments based on the EEO Regulation and on the EOP Regulation is also made in accordance with the relevant provisions included therein.

Other foreign judgments

The recognition and enforcement of judgments issued in countries with which Greece has a bilateral convention regarding enforcement of judgments, or countries with which Greece has not entered into such a bilateral convention, is provided for in articles 323, 904 and 905 of the CCivPr.

Article 904(f) of the CCivPr provides that foreign judgments are enforceable in Greece, provided that they are declared enforceable by the competent single-member court of first instance in accordance with article 905 of the CCivPr. A foreign judgment is not declared enforceable in Greece unless the following apply:

  • it is a title of enforcement in the country of issuance;
  • it does not violate the Greek rules of public order; and
  • it meets the requirements of article 323 of the CCivPr as follows:
  • it constitutes res judicata in the country of issuance;
  • the defeated litigant was not deprived of its right to a fair trial unless such deprivation was done on the basis of the applicable foreign procedural law that does not discriminate in favour of its nationals; and
  • the foreign judgment is not contradictory to a prior decision of a Greek court that constitutes res judicata between the same litigants on the same dispute.

Causes of action

What are the main causes of action in civil asset recovery cases, and do they include proprietary claims?

In most civil asset recovery cases the victim may file an action in tort against the defendant with the competent court of first instance, seeking restitution of the loss or damage sustained (article 914 et seq GCivC). There is no fixed claim form and the content of an action in tort is determined by the claimant, provided that it meets the requirements defined in the CCivPr (articles 118 and 216 CCivPr). To this effect, an action in tort should at least contain the names and addresses of the litigants, the court to which it is addressed and the particulars of the claim (ie, factual allegations) that, if proved, would establish the action against the defendant along with the prayer for the relief sought. In the case of monetary claims, the action should also contain a statement of value. For an action in tort to be granted in favour of the claimant, the latter should expressly allege that the defendant acted in a liable manner (ie, under wilful default or negligence) and that the damage sustained is attributable to, and was the result in the normal course of action, of the tortious acts or omissions of the defendant.

Remedies

What remedies are available in a civil recovery action?

Damages shall be awarded as compensation for the pecuniary harm caused by the defendant. This may include loss of profits.

Moral damages could also be awarded in the form of compensation owing to non-pecuniary harm (psychological) as a result of the unlawful behaviour.

Judgment without full trial

Can a victim obtain a judgment without the need for a full trial?

The CCivPr stipulates specific provisions encouraging the resolving of disputes without the need for a full trial. In particular, as follows:

  • Article 293 of the CCivPr, titled ‘Procedure and results of conciliation’, stipulates that litigants may, at any stage of the trial, reach a compromise, provided that the conditions of the law on the merits are fulfilled. The conciliation is done by means of a declaration before the court or the surrogate judge, or before a notary, and entails ipso facto the end of the trial. The minutes of the conciliation constitute an enforceable title (article 904(2) CCivPr).
  • According to article 214A of the CCivPr, after the occurrence of pendency and until a final judgment is issued, litigants may attempt to reconcile through negotiation efforts regardless of the standing stage of the trial. The minutes of the agreement should be recorded in writing, signed by the parties and ratified by the judge or the presiding judge before whom the case is pending. The minutes of the conciliation constitute an enforceable title.
  • Article 233 of the CCivPr stipulates that a settlement initiated and facilitated by the judge, before whom the case is pending, is possible in all court hearings provided that the nature of the dispute qualifies for settlement. These proceedings may be initiated after the commencement of the hearing of the case and at every stage of the trial until a final decision is reached.
  • According to article 208 of the CCivPr, the judge of the district court (court of small claims) is obliged to make an attempt at conciliation of the litigants before he or she starts to hear a case. However, omitting such obligation does not nullify the procedure.

Post-judgment relief

What post-judgment relief is available to successful claimants?

The claimant may apply for an interim injunction or provisional order before the judgment becomes final.

Enforcement

What methods of enforcement are available?

Final judgments or first instance judgments that have been issued as provisionally enforceable may be immediately enforced. A certified copy of the enforcement order, which is provided by the presiding judge of the court that issued the relevant judgment, is required in order to initiate the enforcement procedure (articles 904 and 918 CCivPr). Once the order is served, enforcement actions may take place after three working days have passed (article 926 CCivPr).

Enforcement actions include garnishment (confiscation) of the defendant’s assets and real estate property or auction of said assets and property, or both.

Funding and costs

What funding arrangements are available to parties contemplating or involved in litigation and do the courts have any powers to manage the overall cost of that litigation?

Legal fees and expenses are usually paid by the client. The latter includes a court duty of 0.8 per cent of the claim value. Also, courts order the unsuccessful litigant to pay the costs of the proceedings, which, as a rule, are of nominal value and cover a small part of the actual costs incurred by the winning party.

Parties of limited financial resources can avoid legal costs based on the provisions of articles 194 to 204 of the CCivPr.

A person can be insured against future litigation expenses, based on his or her contract with the insurer.

Criminal asset recovery

Interim measures

Describe the legal framework in relation to interim measures in your jurisdiction.

Asset recovery is mainly regulated by Law No. 4557/2018, which contains provisions of freezing, confiscation and forfeiture of assets of illicit origin. Similar provisions are to be found in Law No. 4022/2011 on procedures to be followed in cases of corruption of high-ranking public officials, and in Law No. 3126/2003 on the criminal liability of ministers.

Proceeds of serious crime

Is an investigation to identify, trace and freeze proceeds automatically initiated when certain serious crimes are detected? If not, what triggers an investigation?

A criminal investigation is initiated by the prosecutor following a criminal complaint (by an individual or entity, usually the victim of fraud) against certain persons, or information submitted to the Public Prosecutor’s Office by another authority, or even information that has come to the attention of the Public Prosecutor’s Office through the press or other sources. The prosecutor is also responsible for initiating and supervising investigations that may be performed by other agencies, for example, the Financial and Economic Crime Unit (SDOE).

In recent years, the SDOE has become the agency that primarily investigates cases of large-scale fraud, tax evasion, corruption and money laundering. Other special departments include police departments (eg, organised crime or cybercrime), and they are bound by the rules of police conduct and the general provisions of the GCCP.

All agencies have powers of investigation but need to follow the general rules of the GCCP. For example, the SDOE has the right to perform searches and seizures of documents, but needs the presence or the authorisation of a prosecutor, magistrate or judge in order to search private premises or seize documents and data containing privileged information. However, agencies such as the SDOE and the Hellenic Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) do not need an authorisation to obtain tax records and bank account information when conducting an investigation. Special judicial authorisation is always needed to obtain the content of confidential correspondence.

Confiscation – legal framework

Describe the legal framework in relation to confiscation of the proceeds of crime, including how the benefit figure is calculated.

According to article 42 of Law No. 4557/2018, during the main investigation the investigating judge, with the consent of the public prosecutor, may order the freezing of any accounts, securities or financial products and safe deposit boxes kept at a credit or financial institution, including those owned jointly with any other person (third person). During the preliminary inquiry, the freezing shall be ordered by the judicial council. Freezing may take place even at the earliest stages of information gathering by the FIU. In this case, the head of the FIU may freeze assets by issuing an order. The above-mentioned measures may also be imposed in respect of real estate property.

The order of the investigating judge and the judgment of the judicial council have the power of a confiscation report, and thus produce the same effects as confiscation, and shall be issued without prior summoning of the defendant or the third person. It is not necessary for the validity of the freezing order or judgment to mention any specific account, security, financial product or safe deposit box.

The interested party (the defendant or the third person) may appeal against the above orders to the competent judicial council within 20 days after the freezing order is served on him or her.

The value of the benefit, which was unlawfully obtained, is calculated by the authority that orders the freezing of assets. In principle, such benefit corresponds to the proceeds of the alleged crime.

These measures may be imposed provided there are well-founded suspicions that the above assets derived from the commission of money laundering or a predicate offence (such as fraud), or are subject to forfeiture according to article 40 of Law No. 4557/2018. Subject to confiscation are assets derived from a predicate or money laundering offence, or that were acquired directly or indirectly out of the proceeds of such an offence, or that constitute the means that were used or were going to be used for committing such offence.

In case of a guilty verdict, all frozen assets are confiscated according to article 40 provisions. In particular, assets derived from a predicate offence or the offences referred to in article 2, or acquired directly or indirectly out of the proceeds of such offences or the means that were used or were going to be used for committing such offences, shall be seized. If there is no legal reason for returning them to the owner according to articles 310(2) and 373 of the GCCP, they shall be compulsorily confiscated as a result of the court’s sentence. Confiscation shall be imposed even if the assets or means belong to a third person, provided that such person was aware of the predicate offence or the offences referred to in article 2 of Law No. 4557/2018 at the time of their acquisition. Where the assets or proceeds no longer exist, have not been found or cannot be seized, assets of equal value (as at the time of the court sentence) shall be seized and confiscated. Their value shall be determined by the court. The court may also impose a pecuniary penalty up to the value of the said assets or proceeds if it rules that no additional assets can be confiscated or the value of the existing assets falls short.

Furthermore, according to the recently amended article 76 of the GCC, in case of a guilty verdict, all assets derived from the commission of a felony or serious misdemeanour, as well as all assets acquired (directly or indirectly) from the proceeds of such offences, are subject to confiscation. In case these assets have been ‘mixed’ with lawfully obtained assets, confiscation shall extend only to the value of the assets that derived from the offence. Confiscation of assets is not enforced when it is deemed as a disproportionate measure (ie, it is highly likely that it will cause serious and irreparable damage to the defendant’s livelihood or that of his or her family).

Confiscation procedure

Describe how confiscation works in practice.

The freezing order or judgment is served on the defendant, on the third person (in case of jointly owned accounts, securities, etc) and on the managing officer of the credit or financial institution. When the freezing order or judgment is served to the credit or financial institution, the safe deposit box cannot be opened and any withdrawal of money from an account or any sale of securities or financial products is null and void towards the state. Any officer or employee of the credit or financial institution who intentionally violates the above restrictions shall be punished with imprisonment of up to two years and a pecuniary penalty (article 42(2) of Law No. 4557/2018). In practice, assets remain seized or frozen until the end of the trial stage (ie, when the court’s decision becomes final). In case of a guilty verdict, all assets that have been seized or frozen are confiscated by the state. If the defendant is found not guilty, previously frozen assets become available to the defendant or third parties.

Agencies

What agencies are responsible for tracing and confiscating the proceeds of crime in your jurisdiction?

Agencies such as the SDOE and the FIU, along with the judicial authorities (the investigating judge and the prosecutor during the main investigation, or the judicial council during the preliminary inquiry) are responsible for tracing and freezing assets that are allegedly the proceeds of crime. Forfeiture of such assets can solely be ordered by the court that tries the case, if the defendant is found guilty of committing such crimes.

Secondary proceeds

Is confiscation of secondary proceeds possible?

Yes. Confiscation extends to all assets derived from a predicate or money laundering offence, or acquired directly or indirectly out of the proceeds of such offence, or that constitute the means that were used or were going to be used for committing the offence.

Third-party ownership

Is it possible to confiscate property acquired by a third party or close relatives?

Yes. Confiscation shall be imposed even if the assets or means belong to a third person, provided that such person was aware of the predicate offence or of the offences referred to in article 2 of Law No. 4557/2018 (money laundering offences) at the time of their acquisition (articles 42 and 40 of Law No. 4557/2018 and article 76 of the GCC).

Expenses

Can the costs of tracing and confiscating assets be recovered by a relevant state agency?

No.

Value-based confiscation

Is value-based confiscation allowed? If yes, how is the value assessment made?

Confiscation of assets unrelated to the crime is allowed (if the assets that originated from the crime do not exist, or are untraceable or cannot be confiscated - article 40(1) of Law No. 4557/2018 and article 76(3) of the GCC). In principle, the value is calculated by the court that reached a guilty verdict, and corresponds to the proceeds of the alleged crime.

Burden of proof

On whom is the burden of proof in a procedure to confiscate the proceeds of crime? Can the burden be reversed?

In criminal proceedings, the burden of proof lies primarily with the authorities that are responsible for ordering the confiscation or freezing of the proceeds of crime, namely the head of the FIU, the investigating judge or the judicial council (see question 23). Although the defendant is not legally required to prove his or her innocence and the legality of the frozen or confiscated assets, in practice, he or she is expected to provide the authorities with all the necessary evidence in relation to the legitimacy of their origin.

Using confiscated property to settle claims

May confiscated property be used in satisfaction of civil claims for damages or compensation from a claim arising from the conviction?

No. According to article 40 of Law No. 4557/2018 and article 76 of the GCC, the court that tries the case, if it reaches a guilty verdict, orders the forfeiture of all assets that have been previously frozen or confiscated. In this case, these assets are considered to be the property of Greece.

Nevertheless, confiscation shall not be ordered if the confiscated or frozen assets can be returned to their rightful owner (article 40(1) of Law No. 4557/2018 and articles 310(2) and 373 GCCP). The owner may participate in the criminal proceedings as a third party, requesting the return of the seized or frozen assets to him or her.

Confiscation of profits

Is it possible to recover the financial advantage or profit obtained through the commission of criminal offences?

Yes. See question 26.

Non-conviction based forfeiture

Can the proceeds of crime be confiscated without a conviction? Describe how the system works and any legal challenges to in rem confiscation.

Yes. Proceeds of crime may be subject to forfeiture even when criminal proceedings have not been initiated or have been terminated because of the death, unavailability, etc, of the offender, or if the prosecution was terminated or declared inadmissible on other grounds. In these cases, forfeiture shall be ordered by the judicial council or by the court (article 40(3) of Law No. 4557/2018). These decisions are subject to appeal on the merits and on points of law according to articles 492 and 504( 3) of the GCCP.

Owing to the punitive nature of forfeiture in criminal proceedings, non-conviction based forfeiture has been said to be in breach of articles 2(1), 7(1) and 96(1) of the Greek Constitution, which establish the principles of nulla poena sine processu and nullum crimen, nulla poena sine culpa.

Management of assets

After the seizure of the assets, how are they managed, and by whom? How does the managing authority deal with the hidden cost of management of the assets? Can the assets be utilised by the managing authority or a government agency as their own?

According to article 5 of Law No. 4478/2017, which transposed article 10 of the Directive 2014/42/EU on the freezing and confiscation of instrumentalities and proceeds of crime in the European Union, following a decision of the Minister of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights, a new bureau shall be established that will be responsible for managing confiscated or frozen assets. In particular, the economic value of frozen property shall be preserved by taking all necessary measures (such as liquidation of stocks, etc), and confiscated property shall be used for public interest or social purposes.

Making requests for foreign legal assistance

Describe your jurisdiction’s legal framework and procedure to request international legal assistance concerning provisional measures in relation to the recovery of assets.

Law No. 4478/2017 transposed the relevant provisions of Framework Decisions 2003/577/JHA, 2005/212/JHA and 2006/783/JHA and of Directive 2014/42/EU. Greece now recognises and executes freezing and confiscation orders provided that the acts that give rise to them belong to certain categories of offences and are punishable in the issuing state by a custodial sentence of at least three years. For other offences, the principle of dual criminality applies.

Complying with requests for foreign legal assistance

Describe your jurisdiction’s legal framework and procedure to meet foreign requests for legal assistance concerning provisional measures in relation to the recovery of assets.

Greek authorities offer broad assistance to requests of mutual legal assistance concerning provisional measures in relation to the recovery of assets. Most enforcement agencies and the FIU, apart from being points of contact and competent to handle such requests by virtue of international instruments, enter into administrative agreements of cooperation, which enable them to exchange information faster and more efficiently. In principle, requests for freezing and seizing of assets are executed without significant delay if they meet the standards and criteria set in the relevant agreements for mutual assistance.

Treaties

To which international conventions with provisions on asset recovery is your state a signatory?

Greece is a signatory to the following conventions (non-exhaustive list):

  • the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (1959);
  • the Convention of the Council of Europe on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime (1990);
  • the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (2000);
  • the UN Convention against Corruption (2003); and
  • the Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism (2005).

Private prosecutions

Can criminal asset recovery powers be used by private prosecutors?

Private prosecution does not exist in the Greek legal system.

Update and trends

Update and trends

Are there any emerging trends or hot topics in civil and criminal asset recovery in your jurisdiction?

Anti-money laundering legislation, which is the key legislation for criminal asset recovery, is used extensively by the competent authorities in order to detect and prosecute corruption practices, large-scale fraud, tax evasion, etc, and freezing orders for assets are quite common even in the very first stages of an inquiry or investigation on thin evidence.

A number of high-profile cases of fraud have opened during the past year following evidence gathered by the FIU in relation to suspicious transactions or unjustified changes to the property of certain individuals and entities. The FIU has unlimited access to bank records, tax records, etc, and also the ability to exchange information with FIUs of different countries regarding money transactions and asset transfers to and from other jurisdictions. This information gathering has become very important in the way money laundering is correlated to corruption and financial crime cases. On many occasions, the findings of the FIU’s investigations have become the basis for detecting and prosecuting serious criminal offences. However, the FIU’s conduct has received some criticism (especially from defence lawyers) for over-aggressive tactics, which have a negative impact on defendants’ procedural rights.

Judicial review of freezing orders is provided for but, in practice, is not effective enough because the judicial council, which examines the appeals against such orders, is reluctant to release assets when an inquiry of the FIU or an investigation of the prosecuting authorities is open. As a result, assets remain frozen for long periods, especially in cases that require lengthy and complex investigations.

Moreover, there have been steady efforts by the relevant enforcement agencies in detecting assets connected to tax offences. Large-scale investigations are carried out by the competent tax authorities with support from the FIU and the SDOE. Because anti-money laundering legislation provides for access to privileged information and efficient exchange of such information, it is used to detect undeclared assets as well as money transactions to and from other jurisdictions.