Lawyers blast dirty money bill

The country’s top lawyers yesterday issued a rallying call to all their colleagues to oppose «unprecedented and unbelievable» government legislation on money laundering that would require them to break their client-attorney privilege and provide information to authorities. The draft law targeting money laundering and the funding of terrorist organizations was unveiled in April by the government and proposes giving authorities unprecedented powers to investigate private financial data and impose jail sentences of up to 10 years. The bill, which has yet to be submitted to Parliament, would place Greece in line with an EU directive. The European Commission has accused Greece of dragging its feet in complying with the directive, since it should have been integrated into national legislation by June 2003, and threatened to take the government to court. However, the plenary session of the heads of Greece’s bar associations, which met over the weekend, made it clear yesterday that the country’s lawyers were not happy with the proposals. «These unprecedented and unbelievable reforms cancel out the lawyer’s fundamental role and the traditional services he provides, which allow him to act as a shelter for citizens,» read a statement from the group. The draft law requires lawyers to comply with strict client identification, record keeping and reporting of suspicious transactions. Controversially, the bill also forces lawyers to break their client-attorney privilege and divulge information about shady deals. «A lawyer who acts as an informant is by definition someone who lacks trustworthiness and is, therefore, not suitable as a reliable point of support for citizens,» the plenary session said. The lawyers revealed that they plan to make their objections known to the Justice and Finance ministries, which are responsible for the bill, and to make their clients aware of the consequences if the bill becomes law. The presidents of the bar associations also said they would begin a campaign of lobbying MPs and coordinating their members so that they could appeal to the EU, if necessary.

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