Bribery goes unreported

No one in a Greek company has been prosecuted for bribing a foreign public official in this country, even though special legislation has allowed it for the last seven years. That means there are no unlawful acts or that no one is willing to reveal them. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) seems to believe the latter scenario, according to the report it published this week regarding the application of the International Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. The convention has been incorporated into Greek law since 1998. The report’s main conclusion is that «there has only been little progress in combating bribery of foreign public officials» in Greece and points to the lack of prosecutions as proof of this failure. Proposals The OECD also makes a series of recommendations aimed at improving the institutional framework in Greece. The main proposal wants to remind employees they are obligated to reveal bribery cases and will be protected against acts of revenge (such as layoffs) on those who dare blow the whistle. The EU does not permit acts of revenge, but the OECD is sensitive on the issue because other countries, such as Germany, were lax on protecting whistle-blowers until fairly recently. The OECD also recommends making officials in the public sector (particularly in the Economy, Justice and Interior ministries) and the private sector (enterprises, lawyers, accountants and certified accountants) more sensitive to these issues, while also providing the appropriate training and advice to police and justice authorities. The international organization further calls for placing these offenses on a higher scale so the statute of limitations is longer. Also, ministers and deputy ministers will not be as protected as they were before by the Greek Constitution’s provisions. Moreover, the OECD officials have received interesting impressions from their contacts in Greece with public and private sector officials. For instance, with the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) excepted, many officials of the Ministry of Economy and Finance did not know about the international convention and its validation by Greek legislation, and when they became aware of it «they expressed reservations.» The officials of responsible organizations such as the Export Credit Insurance Organization or the Hellenic Aid (the development arm of the Foreign Ministry) may also not be very well-informed on the issue. The Capital Market Commission does not seem to be actively promoting the convention in the private sector either. Code of silence Business associations like the Exporters’ Association of Northern Greece (SEVE) and the Panhellenic Exporters’ Association (PSE) either do not know about the matter or believe there is no need for them to inform their members. The sole exception is the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV), which helped draft the international convention. During their meetings with OECD officials, employees in large domestic companies which are active in sensitive economies such as the Balkans «categorically» denied ever being asked to bribe foreign public officials. There was only one unnamed bank that admitted one of its employees had to do it, but only to avoid a speeding ticket. This is the code of silence in all its grandeur. The most sincere (and interesting) view eventually came from the Association of Chartered Surveyors and Accountants (SOEL), which argued that bribing foreign officials is done at such a high level in the company hierarchy that it is impossible to be revealed in accounting or

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