Civil asset recoveryParallel proceedings
Is there any restriction on civil proceedings progressing in parallel with, or in advance of, criminal proceedings concerning the same subject matter?
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.
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) was 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. To date, 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.
The Trademark Registry 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 new 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, whose disclosure 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 Converention, 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:
- 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:
- Regulation (EU) No. 1215/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2012 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters;
- 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 2006 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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.