Greece’s New Penal Law is Likely to Return Riches to Money Launderers: FT
15 Nov 2019

Legislation approved by Greece’s parliament late Wednesday night appears to put the nation at odds with international anti-money laundering standards, the Financial Times reported Thursday. 

The measure, which was backed by the government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, amends Greece’s penal code to permit individuals suspected of money laundering and criminal fraud to recover assets frozen by a court if they haven’t been brought to trial within 18 months, the newspaper said. 

Criminal cases in Greece typically take three to five years to reach the trial stage, the FT said, citing members of the Athens Bar Association. 

Justice Minister Kostas Tsiaras filed the amendment, which came as part of broader legislation updating Greece’s penal code, shortly before the final debate on the measure and without offering an explanation for the proposal, according to the FT. 

State Minister George Gerapetritis told the news outlet that the amendment was intended to align Greek law with European standards on human rights. 

The legislative change, which contravenes the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force and the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body GRECO, is expected to benefit dozens of shipowners, business people and former bankers who remain under investigation for money laundering and other crimes, according to the report. 

Under the law, newly-formed judicial committees will be tasked with reviewing nearly 900 cases of suspected money laundering within roughly 90 days to determine which investigations justify continued holds on the assets for another 18 months, the FT said. 

An unnamed official at Greece’s anti-money laundering agency said that the passage of the law would likely result in the government returning most of the €1.02 billion in assets it had frozen over the past three years. 

“It’s unlikely the committees would be able to identify many assets that were the products of criminal activity given these time constraints,” the official told the Financial Times. A FATF official recently warned that it “would be most concerned” over the passage of such legislation, the person said. 

Photo (edited): DTRocks [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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