Ex-MPs see pension claims thrown out

Hundreds of former MPs who sued to gain retroactive pension hikes that would have earned each an average of about 300,000 euros have had their cases thrown out by the Court of Audit, it emerged on Monday.

The case came to light last May, when a judge at the Court of Audit told a parliamentary committee that some 800 lawmakers who served between 2003 and 2008 had filed suit.

Their action was based on a 1975 law linking MPs? salaries to that the head of the Supreme Court receives. At various times since then, deputies? salaries have been increased, which resulted in former MPs who receive a pension having their retirement pay increased. However, since 2003, parliaments have voted not to raise salaries.

In 2008, a former deputy sued for back pension pay and won. Since then, five more retired lawmakers have won their cases. The news has caused embarrassment for the country?s politicians at a time of rising unemployment and public spending cuts.

However, the Court of Audit ruled last week that a rise given to judges in 2006 was not in fact an increase in their wages but a bonus payment to take on extra work. This led to judges rejecting the claims by former MPs and, in some cases, their surviving relatives.

It is estimated that the claims by between 500 and 850 ex-deputies would have cost the state 530 million euros. When their legal action was revealed, it prompted outrage in the media and among some serving politicians. The finance minister at the time, Giorgos Papaconstantinou, suggested that he would pass a law preventing the claimants from ever collecting the money.

There were initial reports that some retired lawmakers had intended to drop their claims, fearing a backlash from the public. However, sources told Kathimerini that only seven former deputies decided to give up their claims to enhanced pensions.

Sources said that the court has yet to rule on some 240 suits by MPs demanding back pay due to an increase in judges? salaries. The value of each deputy?s claims is in the region of 250,000 euros, the sources said.

The overall amount sought is estimated at 70 million euros.

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