Bribery law to be made tougher

As allegations of bribery and corruption abound with the current Zachopoulos and Siemens investigations, new legislation aims to make the giving and taking of bribes a criminal offense, rather than a misdemeanor, as is currently the case. Under a new bill, heralded by Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis yesterday and due to be tabled in Parliament soon, members of the public and private sector will face criminal charges if they are suspected of giving or taking bribes in excess of 73,000 euros. This treatment is to apply to all public sector officials including parliamentarians, prefects, mayors and other members of local government. It will also be applied in the case of private sector employees, whether they work for banks, in industry or are self-employed. Employees of public utilities are included in this category. In every case investigated, the proceeds of the alleged crime are to be frozen or confiscated. The same bill also contains a provision foreseeing more severe treatment of any individuals suspected of money laundering, peddling child pornography or sexually molesting minors. In these cases, suspects will have their right to personal data protection removed and authorities will have access to their telephone and Internet transactions as well as their bank accounts. Authorities hope that these reforms will help them trace child traffickers and pedophiles.