Relief for victims of fake euros

Greece’s top prosecutor yesterday warned police and judicial officials not to treat people who unwittingly try to use counterfeit money as criminals. Supreme Court prosecutor Evangelos Kroustallakis sent an urgent order to all the country’s prosecutors following the arrest and trial of dozens of people, usually pensioners, who tried to use fake euro notes without knowing they were forgeries. Kroustallakis declared that he «personally will activate disciplinary procedures against anyone who adopts a broad interpretation of Article 208 of the Penal Code.» He called the indiscriminate use of the law «outrageous hypocrisy.» Article 208, Kroustallakis noted, says that it is a criminal act when people use fake money in the knowledge that it is a forgery and also when they take possession of money in the belief that it is genuine and then, having learned that it is fake, try to use it. He said it could not be subjectively determined that people who had received money in good faith could be seen to have committed a criminal act in trying to use it. «It is remarkable how simple people, workers, pensioners, people with much learning or little learning, have endured arrest, detention and trial when it is clear that they could not know that a banknote that they received from a pension fund, a public service or a bank is forged,» Kroustallakis wrote. Almost every week people are arrested trying to use fake euro notes, usually in the 100- and 200-euro denominations. Last week, opposition New Democracy party MP Aris Spiliotopoulos tabled a question in Parliament asking Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis what action his ministry was taking to address the problem. He said that banks have been known to pass on forged notes to their customers.

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