Clampdown on civil service graft

A bill is to be submitted to Parliament by the end of the month that will give judicial authorities greater powers to investigate civil servants suspected of corruption with the chief aim of clearing a backlog of several thousand outstanding criminal cases.

Sources told Kathimerini that the draft law would aim to speed up the process by which civil servants accused of taking bribes or other disciplinary offenses are tried. It would give unprecedented powers to judicial officials, such as seizing property belonging to the bureaucrats facing charges.

According to the ministry?s plan, the case files will be examined by a prosecutor, who will be responsible for filing charges. First instance courts will then be responsible for hearing the cases and issuing a verdict within six months of the charges being filed by the prosecutor.

Judges will have the right to lift privacy restrictions, check a suspect?s tax and bank records and freeze their accounts, as well as other assets.

The ministry believes that once the law is passed, all civil servants facing charges of breach of faith and accepting bribes will be tried within eight months. At the moment, there are some 6,000 cases outstanding of civil servants who have been charged with criminal offenses.

Sources said that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras personally asked Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis to speed up the legislation after hearing about allegations that public servants had helped dozens of people on Zakynthos obtain disability benefits after they were issued with papers claiming they were blind.

Among the other measures being considered to clamp down on graft in the public sector are hefty fines for civil servants who accept bribes. Under the proposals being considered at the moment, anyone caught accepting a 1,000-euro bribe would face a 50,000-euro fine as well as a jail sentence.

The 50-year-old owner of a consultancy firm in Athens was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of asking for a 6,000-euro bribe from a Rethymno businessman so she could make changes to his application for funding from a Development Ministry program for small businesses.

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