White-collar crimes: trends and challenges

What are the key financial offences under Greek law?

The Greek Criminal Code contains several provisions in relation to financial wrongdoing, including various forms of fraud, embezzlement, breach of fiduciary duties, corrupt practices (active and passive bribery) and obstruction of competition. A significant number of financial offences are also to be found in special criminal statutes, eg money laundering, tax and customs offences, market abuse, etc.

Under Greek law, companies and legal entities cannot be criminally prosecuted. The structure and prerequisites of criminal provisions, in terms of knowledge and intent, are applicable only to individuals. However, companies may face serious administrative sanctions in relation to criminal offences committed by individuals (directors, employees or other) to the companies’ benefit.

Which authorities investigate and prosecute white-collar crime?

The responsibility for the investigation of white-collar crime lies with regulatory and prosecuting authorities (depending on the area of the investigation), while criminal prosecution is always initiated by the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The Prosecutor’s Office for Economic Crimes is responsible for tracking down certain categories of financial offences involving the public sector. Serious financial crimes against the interests of the EU are investigated and prosecuted by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) through the national delegated Prosecutors.

In addition, regulatory authorities, such as the Competition Commission or the Capital Markets Commission, may initiate an investigation into specific criminal offences and forward any notable findings to the Prosecutor’s Office for further actions.

In cases of money laundering, the Greek Financial Intelligence Unit gathers all necessary information, and if there are grounds for the opening of criminal proceedings, all relevant evidence is forwarded to the Prosecutor’s Office.

What type of proceedings are held before trial courts?

After the closing of the investigation, the Prosecutor or (depending on the type of the offence) a three-member pre-trial chamber decide upon the referral of a case to a trial court.

White-collar crime cases are heard before single-judge or three-judges courts depending on the nature of the respective offences (misdemeanours or felonies).

Criminal conviction requires proof beyond reasonable doubt. Defendants have the right to be presumed innocent until the issuance of a final judgement by the competent criminal tribunal. Reasonable doubts on guilt must result in an acquittal (in dubio pro reo principle).

Prosecution of financial felonies is time-barred 15 years after being committed while financial misdemeanours are time barred five years after their commitment. After indictment the statute of limitations does not run for five or three years respectively. Special provisions on the statute of limitations for certain criminal offences can be found in special criminal statutes (eg serious tax offences).

Convictions by a first instance court may be appealed against by the defendant and (in a more limited scope) by the Prosecutor. An exception applies to minor convictions for lesser offences. The appellate court re examines the case and issues a judgment that can be appealed against before the Cassation Court (Areios Pagos) only on points of law.

Are deferred prosecution and/or non-prosecution agreements available? Is there a mechanism for plea bargaining?

US-styled DPAs or NPAs are not available in Greece.

Negotiated pleas for individuals have been introduced in 2019 under the new Code of Criminal Procedure and their use is gradually expanding in practice, especially in in relation to certain types of wrongdoing (eg traffic or immigration offences).

Negotiations can be initiated by the defendant, and these take place between the prosecutor and the defendant and/or his/her counsel. The final agreement, including a substantial sentence discount, must be confirmed by a court.

Other forms of settlement include mediation procedures with the alleged victim(s) including financial compensation, conditional termination of criminal proceedings etc.

What is the status of the attorney-client privilege?

The attorney-client privilege is well established within the Greek legal system (Lawyers’ Code, Criminal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure) and covers a broad range of data that shall be treated as confidential. Professional legal privilege can be invoked in all types of legal procedures, unless the parties entitled to this right decide otherwise. However, the attorney-client privilege does protect the lawyer against prosecution for his/her participation in criminal acts.

Have there been any recent trends/developments in the field of white-collar crime?

The regulatory and enforcement framework in Greece has undergone numerous changes in the past few years, with a view to meeting international standards and adopting guidelines introduced by the European institutions. Legislation must be regularly updated to comply with EU Directives or regulations, OECD standards, regional or international conventions etc.

Have there been any landmark or notable cases/investigations recently?

Large-scale investigations have been initiated during the past months by the Greek Financial Intelligence Unit and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, regarding companies that handle e-shops of consumer products. Many of these e-shops were allegedly used only to issue and circulate false invoices for non-existent online sales, so that the consumer products could be transferred without payment of VAT or other taxes.

This investigation involves many countries within the EU, including Greece. Due to the scope and the urgency of the case, freezing orders were issued against a significant number of legal and natural persons.

There is also an ongoing trial hearing regarding market manipulation and inaccurate false statements of one of the largest entities listed until recently on the Athens Stock Exchange involving many individuals as well as parallel administrative proceedings and multi-jurisdictional issues.


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