Drive to cleanse justice system

As Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis took a public stance yesterday on the burgeoning trial-fixing scandal, saying the allegations «cast a heavy shadow over Greek justice,» Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras heralded a series of tough anti-corruption measures. The reforms announced by the minister include much stiffer penalties – up to 10 years’ imprisonment and a maximum 1-million-euro fine – for judges caught taking bribes. Trying to influence the course of justice will also lead to criminal charges, while steps will be taken to ensure that the choice of judges by lot is not interfered with. Furthermore, members of the judiciary will be subjected to increased scrutiny by court inspectors, and judges’ assets will be closely monitored. Yesterday’s announcements followed a wide-ranging investigation into the activities of 11 judges after claims on a TV program that members of the judiciary were involved in trial-fixing, particularly in drug cases. The first part of the probe, headed by a Supreme Court prosecutor, is expected to close this week with the recommendation that three judges of first instance and an appeals court prosecutor be sacked for corruption, with criminal charges brought against the one judge for allegedly taking a 5,000-euro bribe to award large damages to an accident victim. Court sources said yesterday that disciplinary charges are expected to be brought against judges in another 11 cases which are not immediately linked with the alleged trial-fixing ring – in which a churchman, Archimandrite Iakovos Yiossakis, is suspected of involvement. «The charges and revelations of the past few days concerning members of the judiciary, who were operating under conditions of corruption and illegal transactions, cast a heavy shadow over Greek justice,» Karamanlis said, while stressing that most Greek judges are honest. «We are determined to eliminate all corruption and lack of transparency from every sector of public life – and this applies above all to the justice system.» Under the measures announced by Papaligouras, bribe-taking by judges will hence be treated as a criminal offense – rather than a misdemeanor, that carries jail terms of one to five years – and punished with five to 10 years’ imprisonment and fines of 100,000 to 1 million euros. «The existence of even a few corrupt judges who sell trials and haggle over their verdict… literally places a bomb in the foundations of our justice system,» he said. There will be an increase in the number of inspectors who will step up their scrutiny of the judiciary, while the annual funds-source (pothen esches) declarations by Greece’s 3,000-odd judges will be examined with a fine-tooth comb. Any judge under investigation for corruption will be automatically suspended – which was not the case until now – while all serious disciplinary cases that have been shelved over the past three years will be re-examined. And any judge who is drawn by lot to sit on a case will only be able to be replaced by a colleague who has already been drawn as a substitute. Papaligouras said there are strong indications that the system of drawing judges by lot is being tampered with. «One lot of judges is drawn and another lot ends up sitting on a case,» he said.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.