NEWS

Trial-fixing scandal: Deja vu?

Greece’s political leadership was made aware of the existence of corruption within the judiciary long before the current spate of scandals engulfed the institution, according to a letter, published in Sunday’s Kathimerini, sent by a Supreme Court prosecutor to the then Justice Minister in 1993, drawing her attention to alleged trial-fixing. In writing to Anna Psarouda-Benaki, the current parliament speaker, 12 years ago, Giorgos Playianakos indicated that there appeared to be a corrupt ring of judges, mostly in Piraeus courts, who were releasing convicted drug dealers on false grounds. Several middle-ranking judges are currently set to face criminal prosecution on similar charges. Leonidas Stathis, a court of first instance president, became the first of the eight judges who currently face disciplinary action to face criminal prosecution on Friday. He was charged with, among other things, being involved in money laundering and repeatedly accepting bribes. Playianakos, who quoted an investigation conducted by then deputy Supreme Court prosecutor Andreas Floudas in 1990, said that a number of unjustifiable releases had occurred and that only a few judges had been disciplined, while many cases had simply been filed away. He suggested that a further probe was needed but warned that this would ruffle a few feathers. Playianakos highlighted that Floudas had come up against considerable opposition from several lawyers, suspects and judges during his probe, which might explain, he wrote Psarouda-Benaki, why others had been dissuaded from similar investigations in the past. In his report, Floudas, who died in a car crash considered by some to be suspicious, noted that between 1985 and 1991 a Piraeus criminal court issued some 600 decisions releasing prisoners on grounds that they were recovering drug addicts. Floudas found that only for 120 of these cases were full records kept by the court, showing the background to the case, the presiding judges and the reason for the decision. In total, some 100 decisions by criminal and appeal courts, involving 250 judges and 80 prosecutors, were subject to disciplinary probes at the time. Few of them led to measures being taken against members of the judiciary – for reasons that are not clear. «Investigations like the one by Floudas will need to be repeated in the future, unless justice no longer wants to conduct checks on itself… an occurrence which will greatly reduce the reliability of the judiciary and the trust that people have in their country’s justice system,» Playianakos wrote in his letter to Psarouda-Benaki, before underlining that most judges did their jobs properly.