Softer sentences for financial crimes if money is returned to public coffers

Money launderers, tax evaders, fraudsters, smugglers and people who have failed to properly declare their assets could face a maximum of just two years in prison if they return the money they have stolen or made from illegal activities, according to legislation being drawn up by the government.

Kathimerini understands that the would-be law foresees suspects being given a maximum two-year sentence if they return the money before they are called before a magistrate. If they pay back the sum in question after giving a deposition but before standing trial, the jail term will increase to three years.

The favorable terms will not apply to politicians, local authority officials or any public sector employees embroiled in corruption cases. This aspect of the proposed law, however, has yet to receive final approval from Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

It is expected that the new regulations, which the Justice Ministry has been working on for some time, will be submitted to Parliament in September. The ministry studied similar legislation in the United States before arriving at its proposal.

The draft law will also give the government the power to liquidate the assets of anyone convicted of financial offenses or of state corruption. If the convict acquiesces to the procedure, it could result in his or her jail sentence being reduced.

The combination of measures is expected to bring about 5 billion euros in revenues into public coffers, sources told Kathimerini.

Apart from providing the government with some much-needed revenue, the new law would also help reduce overcrowding at Greek jails, which the government has promised to address.

The drafting of the legislation comes at a time when prosecutors are investigating dozens of cases involving suspected corruption.

These include probes into 12 arms deals, the finances of some 6,000 nongovernmental organizations and a number of public works projects.

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