Tuesday 22 May 2012

Akis Tsochatzopoulos and the System

Former PASOK minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos has, for whatever reasons, released his private papers to the media. Mr. Tsochatzopoulos is in detention while legal proceedings are underway against him for bribery and money laundering. The origins of this prosecution date back to bribes on military contracts, and were originally revealed by German prosecutors prosecuting the Siemens and Ferrostahl cases, but also by Greek press investigations into real estate purchases by his wife.

A useful summary is available on his Wikipedia profile. According to this, Mr. Tsochatzopoulos held a variety of critical ministerial posts which have long been associated with large-scale public expenditure and all the attendant corruption effects this gives rise to:

·       Minister for Public Works (1981–1985)
·       Minister for the Presidency of the Government (1985–1987)
·       Minister for the Interior (1987–1989)
·       Minister for Transport and Communication (1989–1990) (Coalition Government)
·       Minister for the Interior (1993–1995)
·       Minister for National Defence (1996–2001)
·       Minister for Development (2001–2004)

My intent with this post is not so much to recount the allegations against Mr. Tsochatzopoulos, as to raise some questions for the future:

a.     Is Mr. Tsochatzopoulos’ health and safety in the Greek prison system assured? What steps are being taken to guarantee this?

b.     What judicial and financial resources are being assigned to this case by the interim government, and what commitments are being made by the leading political parties to ensure that these resources will be continued after an election?

c.     How is it that his papers have been leaked, and what right does the entire journalistic community of Greece have to reproduce and comment on them in the public domain? While I can understand that this creates a momentum for prosecution, it also enables potentially guilty parties to make preparations for their own defence (and evasion), which is no doubt already underway.

d.     Tracking down the money trail will involve specialised support and intra-judicial cooperation, notably with Cyprus. What steps are being taken for this to avoid the debacle of that seen in the Vatopedi “investigation”, where Greek requests for information on the beneficial ownership of Cypriot IBC companies were routinely stonewalled?

A final note: assuming this case is indeed investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent, it will most likely unveil corruption involving not only the PASOK party system, but also major Greek and foreign suppliers, including those of Germany, France, and the United States.

Should this be the case:

e.     What steps will be taken to lift parliamentary immunity and the statute of limitations on crimes committed by individuals under previous governments?

f.      What steps will be taken to assure their safety, but also to assure that they will not flee the country, as other key figures in corruption scandals have done?

In my opinion, the fair and "professional" prosecution and trial of Akis Tsochatzopoulos and his associates would be a serious sign that Greece is finally serious about cracking down on high-level political corruption.

This creates a serious burden of professional practise and objectivity not only among the civil service and justice system, but among the very political parties who have the most to lose from such an investigation and prosecution.

Unfortunately, precisely for these reasons, there may be few chances that a real investigation and prosecution is permitted to take place. We should remember that, as with Menios Koutsogiorgas in 1991, the ultimate statute of limitations is determined by survival.

© Philip Ammerman, 2012

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