NEWS

Private sector bribes targeted

After years of government privatization programs that have transferred numerous state enterprises to private industry, the Justice Ministry is preparing a draft bill that will target corruption outside the public sector. Ministry sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini that for the first time offenders found guilty of bribing a businessman in order to influence a decision in their favor could face a jail sentence of between one to five years. Examples of corruption in the private sector include bank managers who are given a kickback in order to approve a loan for a customer. Banks that were previously state-controlled but are now playing by the rules of the private sector include the country’s largest lender, National Bank, and Emporiki Bank (currently in the privatization process). Sources said that penalties for laundering money obtained from bribes will also get tougher, while those found to have implemented creative accounting methods to cover up such behavior will receive harsher treatment. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has announced that his conservative government has zero tolerance of corruption in Greece. Results, however, have been slow in coming. According to data prepared by the World Bank in April, corruption in Greece reaches, and often exceeds, levels seen in countries like Portugal, South Korea, Estonia and Senegal. Money distributed to public officials in kickbacks is estimated to reach 330 million euros every year. Other areas the Justice Ministry’s draft bill will aim to crackdown on include parliamentary MPs who accept payment in order to take a certain position on a bill heading through Parliament. Elected representatives on municipal and prefectural committees will also be targeted, with guilty parties facing a jail sentence of at least a year. Currently they can only face a sentence with a 12-month maximum and a fine.