NEWS

Kroustallakis retires as Supreme Court Prosecutor without regrets

The day before retiring from his judicial career, Supreme Court prosecutor Evangelos Kroustallakis gave a wide-ranging interview to Kathimerini, speaking out for the first time about the major issue that has arisen in connection with prominent entrepreneur Socrates Kokkalis. Kroustallakis speaks frankly about the ruling handed down by the Full Bench of the Appeals Court on the subject, responds to criticism, and disagrees entirely with the rationale which senior appeals judge Haridimos Papadakis expressed in his conclusion. [On Thursday, the appeals court judges rejected Kroustallakis’s call for the appointment of special investigating judges to handle the Kokkalis case and that of former investigating magistrate Constantina Bourboulia, who is accused of conducting an affair with a lawyer representing firms she was scrutinizing. Kokkalis was charged last February with espionage on behalf of the former East German secret police, embezzlement, money laundering and fraud. In January, investigating magistrate Giorgos Pournaras proposed shelving the charges due to lack of evidence. The appeals court judges majority, rejecting Kroustallakis’s call, ruled that there was no need for a special investigating judge to take over the case, as Pournaras’s proposal has still to be approved by the council.] The ruling was wrong, according to Kroustallakis, who says: «To anyone who knows Greek, article 308 clearly states that investigation of infringements of Law 1608 is deemed to be concluded when an Appeals Council order is issued.» Independent judiciary Kroustallakis confirms that there are procedures by which a supplementary investigation may be ordered – and in fact prosecutor Fani Kontothanassi has made such a proposal – and he believes that the independence of the judiciary is directly related to the personal stance and courage of judges. Kroustallakis is retiring with his head held high and a clear conscience. He advises the remaining prosecutors «to continue to abide strictly by the law» in these difficult times, when «the words trade-off and corruption often pale in the face of reality.» And for anyone who wonders which soccer team he supports, we can reveal that it is Apollon Kalamarias, because that is where the headquarters of the Judges’ School which he directs is located. How do you see the role of the prosecutor and why should this year be called the Year of the Prosecutor? A prosecutor must abide strictly by the law, despite any obstacles or adverse conditions, and impartially take on anyone who breaks the law, no matter how high their position or how powerful they seem. A judge must be a strong presence in society. General issues which arise nowadays give prosecutors responsibilities they would never have imagined in the past. You have to look at the circumstances in which I referred to the Year of the Prosecutor. I made the comment at a party to celebrate cutting the New Year cake, and it was an exhortation to my colleagues to keep up their arduous task. I said that a prosecutor shouldn’t be like a husband who is the last to find out that his spouse has been unfaithful. A prosecutor must ignore opposition, whichever direction it comes from – above, the left, or the right. You were criticized by some of the press for your intervention in two serious cases, demanding their full judicial investigation by a special appeals court prosecutor. What do you have to say to the accusations that your instruction was «of less than pure intentions?» I took an action that was within the field of my competence; I acted according to a specific provision of the Procedural Penal Code. I am referring to article 308 which clearly states that the investigation of infringements of Law 1608 is deemed to be concluded when an Appeals Council order is issued. This means, to anyone who knows Greek, that as long as no order has been issued, the investigation has not been concluded. While the investigation was pending, I intervened and said that a further investigation should be ordered. And from what I have heard, Deputy Appeals Prosecutor Fani Kontothanassi, who was handling the case, made the same proposal in writing. Everyone is free to comment, even if what they say is inaccurate. This is the essence of democracy. This was the first time a case presented to the Full Bench was rejected. Many spoke of it as a sign of personal disapproval. Those of us who are involved with the law know that the same clause can be interpreted this way and that. This was a different interpretation of the clause. I don’t agree with it, but that doesn’t mean anything. I respect the ruling as a different view in the interpretation of the provisions of procedural law. And moreover, I don’t think this ruling reflects on me. Crucial allegations Why didn’t you intervene earlier when you realized there were delays and shortcomings in the way the investigation material was being handled? I had proclaimed that the investigation was urgent, and I had indicated that the allegations were crucial. The special examining judge completed it and sent it to the Appeals Council. In the meantime, a new complaint had been lodged by a Russian state organization. A Supreme Court prosecutor cannot ignore something like that. A foreign organization had brought certain charges; I considered that to be important and I took it into consideration. And secondly, it was unprecedented for an examining judge to write a 43-page alternative conclusion. This was the second factor that made me intervene. Was that a decision you took alone or did you discuss it with other colleagues? No, I decided alone. Did you regret your action? Would you do the same again? I have no cause to regret it. I stand by it. Is it within the discretion of the Chief Prosecutor to order a supplementary investigation? Procedural Law makes provision for various options. The prosecutor acts accordingly. Are there prosecutors who don’t do their job properly? As a rule, prosecutors are aware of the heavy responsibility on their shoulders. Of course there are a few isolated cases which tarnish the name of justice. You have served justice for 40 years. What do you think is the greatest problem it faces? Slowness. The tardy administration of justice disappoints people. However, judges and prosecutors are the least to blame for this unacceptable phenomenon. We are not superhuman. Tardiness is an ailment which inconveniences everyone. But in general, the justice system is at a good level, and the ethics and professional training of its practitioners is at a very high level. There is an urgent need for the government to establish intermediate posts of deputy president and deputy prosecutor. And there should also be a permanent, flexible mechanism for the voluntary retirement of those who, for one reason or another, are unable to fulfill their duties.