NEWS

Everyone has to be accountable to the law

“A member of the judiciary has a duty to uphold the law. The judiciary system must, making absolutely no distinction, take prompt and effective action against anyone who violates the law, no matter how high their position, no matter how powerful they may be. «Contemporary society demands, as does the Constitution, that anyone who breaks the law should be prosecuted, and that everybody is equal before the law.» These words, spoken to Kathimerini by Supreme Court prosecutor Evangelos Kroustallakis, indicate his view of the judiciary’s role. They provide an indirect response to hasty interpretations of his decision to take the extraordinary step (on June 10) of convoking a plenary session of Greece’s 212 appeals court judges to discuss whether two cases that had received media attention and sparked a political uproar should be subject to top-level investigation. One case concerns the activities of businessman Socrates Kokkalis (including allegations of espionage, embezzlement and money-laundering) and of alleged misconduct by former magistrate Constantina Bourboulia, who headed a probe into the 1999 stock market rally and subsequent crash. An inquiry started last month found Bourboulia should be charged for breach of duty and for failing to report her relationship with a lawyer representing firms whose affairs she was investigating. The judiciary is treading a fine line in the first case, as it has to decide whether to go further with its investigation of Kokkalis’s «life and times» and refer the case to an appeals court due to the gravity of the charges, or whether the conclusions of investigations to date are sufficient. Kroustallakis’s decision to go ahead, just a few days before his retirement, have given the government cause for concern. Until now, it has officially kept its distance from the issue. The move has also led to fierce debate within the court system, where sides are being taken. According to reliable sources in the judiciary, the battle is likely to be played out in the appeals court plenary. Nevertheless, the majority of judges appear to be aligning themselves with Kroustallakis on the issue, as many have observed that his action «is not unprecedented for cases that affect the public interest to be subjected to scrutiny by a higher authority.» «The Supreme Court prosecutor’s action is part of the need to protect the justice system from the prevailing view that a cover-up is in process,» said a senior court official. Among the reasons given for the alleged delay in Kroustallakis’s decision to call the plenary session, particularly since the investigation is over, was the observation that he «had a duty to exhaust all jurisprudence provided for by law so as not to leave any margin for doubt or to give the public the mistaken impression that there were two categories of citizens.» The move to transfer the case to the appeals court is interpreted in judicial circles as being a condemnation of actions taken so far by the investigating magistrate Giorgos Pournaras. Further investigation of Kokkalis’s activities is in order for another reason – the conflicting conclusions drawn by the two judiciary officials that handled the case. «The allegations are extremely serious and concern the exercise of state power, raise issues regarding our country’s foreign relations and, for good reason, are of concern to public opinion. It is not a normal procedural act for there to be conflicting views between prosecutor and investigating magistrate,» said Kroustallakis in a document calling for the activation of article 29 of the penal code. He was referring to the fact that while prosecutor Dimitris Papangelopoulos had drafted a report recommending the prosecution of Kokkalis for criminal acts, investigating magistrate Pournaras had filed away the case, ruling that there was insufficient evidence to try Kokkalis. The authority of the Supreme Court prosecutor to intervene in such crucial cases was also defended by the president of the Union of Judges and Prosecutors, Dimitris Kyritsakis. «The senior prosecutor has the inalienable right, when evidence exists, to take any action necessary to investigate a case. This a right which he may exercise right up until his last day (June 30) in the judiciary. This does not mean that because he is to retire in 10 days time, he does not have the right to call a plenary session,» said a senior source in the judiciary. The appeals plenary will most likely meet on Thursday, June 26, but it has not yet been announced if a single rapporteur will be appointed for both cases or whether two will be chosen due to the volume of evidence. Kroustallakis appears to be particularly annoyed by a somewhat aggressive statement by Kokkalis although in press interviews, he says Kokkalis has the right to defend himself. Asked to comment on that statement, which criticizes Papangelopoulos’s case as being «full of holes,» and makes vague references to «politicians and rival businessmen trying to keep up the unjust and slanderous court case against him, particularly after the magistrate’s ruling (in his favor),» Kroustallakis said: «What is there to comment on? Everyone is free to make their views known, we have a democracy and we have to listen to everyone, even when what they say upsets us.» As to whether more surprises are in store, Kroustallakis gave the disarming reply that he was now «calming down,» but that he could not give any guarantees.