First judge charged in court bribe scandal

A senior prosecutor yesterday pressed criminal charges against a middle-ranking judge suspected of demanding bribes to issue favorable court decisions. Leonidas Stathis, a court of first instance president, was the first of the eight judges who currently face disciplinary action – which could lead to their dismissal – to face criminal prosecution. The most serious of the charges brought against him by appeals court prosecutor Kyriakos Karoutsos – making a living out of money laundering – carries a sentence of between 10 and 20 years’ imprisonment. Together with the criminal charges, Stathis was also formally accused of repeatedly taking bribes. Under current legislation, which the government has pledged to revise, this is considered a misdemeanor and carries relatively light penalties. Stathis is alleged to have demanded a 5,000-euro bribe to issue a favorable ruling in a road accident case, while examinations of his bank accounts have revealed suspicious payments totaling 32,000 euros in the past two months alone. Together with Stathis, Karoutsos also brought bribery charges yesterday against six lawyers – Ioannis Papadopoulos, Efthymia Halkidou, Nikolaos Kanatakis, Constantinos Danias, Gerassimos Apergis and Stavros Hoursoglou – who allegedly paid the cash into the judge’s accounts. Apergis and Hoursoglou face slightly milder charges (complicity in bribery). Also yesterday, Supreme Court prosecutor Dimitris Linos ordered an investigation into the circumstances surrounding a letter sent to him by Apostolos Vavilis, a convicted drug dealer sought by Interpol who was close to Archbishop Christodoulos. In the letter, which was conveyed to Linos through a TV station, Vavilis offered to turn himself in provided he could be assured of a fair trial.

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