OPINION

Corruption and impunity

Any thief knows how to cover his tracks, an old Greek saying goes – meaning that he who decides to steal must be smart enough to hide his guilt. Any legal functionary who decides to commit a crime and betray his or her better judgment has a clear understanding of the consequences of their actions. They are experts at how to go about exposing a crime and, for that reason, how to disguise one. How can one explain the fact that virtually all the corrupt judges who have been punished or are facing charges were betrayed by naive mistakes? How can one explain that former court of first instance judge Constantina Bourboulia is accused of taking bribes and of having 600,000 euros in bank accounts, including remittances from lawyers involved in cases she judged? The average bank robber would never be so foolish as to deposit the loot in a bank. He would hide the money in some secret place for years until it was safe to spend it. So it’s hard to believe that revelations about a judge’s wrongdoings were the result of negligence or bad judgment. Impunity leads to license. It’s hard to believe that these cases of bribes and fraud are rare and isolated. Thirty corrupt judges is not the entirety. Their sense of impunity is not only fueled by the failure of checks and penalties, rather, it is the result of extensive corruption that incapacitates all monitoring mechanisms. Other state bodies, including the police and the tax office, have set up watchdogs to prevent or punish internal corruption. In the justice system, that task is left to the supervision of the judges themselves, and has proved insufficient. The same applies to lawyers. The Ministry of Justice must take steps to protect the image, credibility and impartiality of the justice system.