NEWS

Dirty money to go through a stringent wringer

The Financial Crime Squad (SDOE) has sent all Finance Ministry departments details of an ambitious action plan against money laundering, part of a concerted European Union drive to prevent a spreading of the phenomenon in view of the introduction of the common currency on January 1. According to SDOE sources, the agency has already collected data on suspect persons and enterprises, monitoring on a daily basis bank account transactions, monthly expenses and travel, and freezing a number of accounts whose owners will soon be charged. Specifically, SDOE investigators are said to be focusing particular interest on transactions involving the suspect accounts with countries considered to be of high risk, including producers of narcotics, havens of bank account confidentiality and emerging markets seeking investments in hard currency; frequent transfers of large sums, letters of credit, travelers’ checks, methods for converting big sums into securities and their swift electronic transfer; and the acquisition of expensive personal assets and lifestyle that cannot be justified by one’s nominal occupation. Attention is also directed toward income tax statements since 1997, information from other countries on individuals’ criminal records, and the origin of funds of new partners in companies or members of the board. Banking sources, however, take the view that drug traffickers do not widely use the Greek banking system. The problem in Greece, they say, is that effective money laundering can be done through transactions involving bonds and stocks, real estate, and small import-export and offshore companies. State bonds can be transferred and converted into cash without proof of the funds used for their acquisition. Greek banks are obliged by law to provide judicial authorities with all data and information relating to money laundering.