BUSINESS

Law firm accused of manipulating Competition Commission, blackmailing companies

DIMITRA MANIFAVA

TAGS: Economy, Crime

A law firm appears to have filed a number of fabricated complaints with the Hellenic Competition Commission in recent months with the aim of blackmailing the companies accused in those complaints.

Kathimerini understands the law firm is connected to a former senior member of the independent authority, whose name received a lot of publicity in the media and the justice system in 2006. The firm’s unlawful activity was described on Tuesday by the head of the commission, Dimitris Kyritsakis, during a hearing by the Parliamentary Committee for Institutions and Transparency.

The Competition Commission chief argued that the law firm finds deputies (this mainly concerns two particular MPs) willing to table questions in Parliament regarding complaints submitted for examination by the commission.

According to Kyritsakis, that is intended to pressure the commission to prioritize certain cases, although in 2011 the commission changed its priority assessment criteria, which today are no longer based on the time of a complaint’s submission.

The law firm is also said to engage in another practice that is even less innocent: “The law firm files a complaint against a company and then forwards the complaint to the same company,” Competition Commission Director General Dionysia Xirokosta told the same committee on Tuesday.

Legal and business sources explained to Kathimerini that such practices likely lead to blackmail aimed at personal profit. If one has a well-founded complaint and wishes to have it assessed and examined by the Competition Commission, one doesn’t inform the subject of the complaint as that would deprive the watchdog of the advantage of a surprise inspection.

Sources say that a number of companies have fallen victim to the practice but for reasons related to bad publicity chose not to publicize it. However, at least one major company appears determined to resort to justice soon. It remains to be seen whether the Competition Commission has the necessary evidence to resort to justice itself too.

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