Cleanup for dirty money

Following a rapid rise in the amount of money laundering taking place in Greece, the government is preparing the ground for the creation of a new independent authority with overreaching powers to clamp down on the practice, sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini. The government is set to submit soon to Parliament a draft law on money laundering after pressure from the European Union. Sources said it has decided to use a section of the bill to allow for the setting up of a supreme body with unprecedented powers, particularly in the area of investigation. The issue of money laundering came to the fore last week after revelations about an investigation into the unusually large amount of winnings from OPAP lottery games collected by around 10 people. It is alleged that the suspects bought winning tickets from all over the country with «dirty» money and then cashed them in for «clean» tender. The probe began last year and authorities believe that if a strong independent body had already existed, the investigation would not have dragged on for so long. According to sources, the new authority will be able to investigate suspicious transactions, including opening bank accounts, without the go-ahead from prosecutors. Earlier this month, Greece received a warning from Brussels about delays in implementing EU directives designed to give authorities greater power to probe suspected money laundering, particularly if it is linked to terrorism. This prompted the government to approve the relevant draft law last week. The laundering in Greece of money gained from illegal activities has increased rapidly in the last few years. In 1999, some 7 million euros’ worth of capital was seized in connection to the activity, while last year this figure topped 30 million euros.