Greece needs to take tougher stance against bribery offenses involving state officials, the Council of Europe's Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said in a report published on Wednesday.
The 47-member Council of Europe and the OECD had been critical in June this year of the Greek Parliament, after it had downgraded bribery of public officials from a felony offence to a misdemeanour, thus introducing more lenient criminal sanctions for such crimes, GRECO said.
After strong criticism by the group, the government reintroduced, to some extent, tougher penalties for the bribery offenses in November. However, GRECO added, the changes do not go far enough.
“The June downgrading will have long standing retroactive consequences in Greece in respect of corruption offences committed by public officials before 18 November 2019, which still will be considered as misdemeanours,” the report says.
In another recommendation, GRECO also said that aggravating circumstances in bribery should carry tougher penalties for offenders and called for changes to Article 236.1 of the Criminal Code.
“The current situation conveys the message that this offence is considered less serious now than before.”
The report also calls on the government to ensure that passive bribery of foreign public officials, judges, members of assemblies, jurors and arbitrators is criminalized in accordance with Articles 5 and 6 of the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption.
GRECO also expressed concern that the current legal framework excludes the President from any criminal liability for corruption offences.
“The President of the Republic is undeniably a public official, regardless of whether his functions are only of a ceremonial nature, and the exclusion of bribery of the President from criminal liability in respect of corruption offences is a major shortcoming,” it said.
Finally, the report calls on Greece to comply with international standards against money laundering and combating financing of terrorism, following a recent amendment for prosecuting money laundering.