NEWS

State revenue held back by tardy trials

New Justice Ministry statistics show that nearly half a million cases of alleged tax-related offenses are pending at courts around the country, obstructing the dispensation of justice but also holding back much-needed state revenue at a time when the debt-ridden government is desperate to refill state coffers and plug a gaping budget deficit. According to ministry statistics, around 120,000 new cases reach the country’s administrative courts every year. Of these, just 85,000 are heard, meaning that some 35,000 remain pending, adding to the existing backlog. As it takes an estimated 11 to 13 years for each tax-related case to be resolved, the process of plowing through this backlog is extremely slow. Consequently, hundreds of thousands of euros in fines for tax evasion and other offenses are not collected. Court clerks yesterday staged a work stoppage from 7.30 a.m. until 11.30 a.m., protesting staff shortages and the lack of sufficient courtrooms to handle the huge backlog of cases. The clerks say there are approximately 2,500 vacant positions in the country’s courts, a figure they fear could double as hundreds of their colleagues have rushed to take early retirement ahead of the implementation of the new pension law which raises the retirement age and cuts monthly payments.