The course of justice

Small investors lost entire fortunes on the Athens Stock Exchange because they believed in specious assurances that there would be a market boom in 1999 and 2000. Ultimately, a few shrewd individuals pocketed the savings of citizens who invested in «share bubbles» after putting their faith in declarations by government officials and profiteerers. When the fiasco was exposed, these simple people shifted their hopes to judicial authorities after being told by the prime minister that «they should have been more careful.» But justice, as tardy as ever, entrusted the case to an investigating magistrate about whose conduct much has been said and even more has been written, notwithstanding the launch of criminal and disciplinary proceedings against her, which are also making sluggish progress. But while facing charges of illicit behavior in connection with this major case, the magistrate did not hesitate to resign. And her resignation was immediately accepted by the justice minister, who did not feel the need to remember and implement a specific legal provision which states that the minister is not obliged to accept such a resignation if criminal or disciplinary charges are pending against the individual in question when the resignation is submitted. Neither the justice minister nor the general secretary of the ministry – who are both lawyers – stopped to consider this provision. The slow pace of progress, the dormancy, the ease with which the resignation of an accused legal official can be immediately accepted, the confusion of the preliminary investigation – none of these elements can be viewed as positive examples of the way our judicial system works. And the people who lost their savings in the dark period of stock market irregularities in 1999 are justifiably perplexed and skeptical. Was it really necessary to wait for last week’s order from the Supreme Court’s deputy prosecutor Giorgos Zorbas for the probe into the well-known stock market scandal to move forward? Maybe this points to the essential inertia of the initial legal probe, which should have been completed a long time ago, and which should have been made an exception to other slow-moving investigations. Evidently, Supreme Court intervention was necessary for progress. But this intervention, if it is to reassure small investors – the real victims of the stock market scandal – must have continuity and results. Justice must perform its duty and preserve its influence.