10 June 2024

White Collar Crime Comparative Guide

White Collar Crime Comparative Guide for the jurisdiction of Greece, check out our comparative guides section to compare across multiple countries
Greece Criminal Law
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1 Legal and enforcement framework

1.1 Which legislative and regulatory provisions govern white collar crime in your jurisdiction?

Broadly speaking, criminal liabilities that may result from corporate and business-related offences are governed by the national legislative framework – namely:

  • the Criminal Code;
  • the Code of Criminal Procedure; and
  • any relevant laws that cover certain specific forms of criminal offences within the business sector.

However, as Greece is a member of international institutions – most notably the European Union – legislative acts such as directives, regulations and recommendations issued by the European legislative agencies also apply; as do international conventions adopted by international organisations.

1.2 Which bilateral and multilateral instruments of relevance to white collar crime have effect in your jurisdiction?

Greece cooperates closely with many states on matters relating to criminal law. As a result, several bilateral agreements have been concluded and are currently in force concerning issues such as the extradition of criminals and cross-border judicial cooperation in general. By way of example, these include:

  • the Bilateral Agreement between the Hellenic Republic and the United States on Extradition (Law 3770/2009);
  • the Bilateral Agreement between the Hellenic Republic and Russia on Extradition (Law 1242/1982);
  • the Bilateral Agreement between the Hellenic Republic and Australia on Judicial Assistance in Criminal Matters (LAW 3277/2004); and
  • the Bilateral Agreement between the Hellenic Republic and the United States on Judicial Assistance in Criminal Matters (Law 3771/2009).

Furthermore, the European Convention on Extradition can also be applied in the Greek territory. An arrest warrant may also be obtained for persons located in Greece by virtue of a red notice issued by Interpol.

Finally, as Greece is an EU member state, criminals located in the Greek territory may fall under the scope of application of European criminal law – in particular, Directive EU/2016/919 on the European arrest warrant. Furthermore, EU Regulation 2017/1939 introduced the institution of the European Public Prosecutor's Office, establishing a European mechanism for the prosecution of criminal offences.

1.3 Which bodies are responsible for enforcing the applicable laws and regulations? What powers do they have?

In general, the vast majority of prosecuting powers in relation to matters of criminal law in Greece are vested in:

  • the competent prosecutor's offices of first instance;
  • the prosecutor's offices of the Court of Appeal; and
  • the Prosecutor's Office of the Supreme Court.

As part of the operations of the prosecuting authorities, there are also specialised prosecutor's offices dedicated to the fight against white collar crime, such as:

  • the Anti-corruption Prosecutor's Office; and
  • the Economic Crime Prosecutor's Office.

As Greece is an EU member state, a European Public Prosecutor's Office has been established in Greece responsible for prosecuting and bringing to justice persons charged with crimes against the EU budget (eg, fraud, corruption or serious cross-border fraud). Examples include the initiation of criminal proceedings by the European public prosecutors of Athens against 23 persons –18 of whom are public officers – in connection with the recent railway collision tragedy in Tempe in February 2023. The defendants, among others, are facing charges of fraud involving funds derived from the European budget.

The police authorities also conduct support work in the investigation of crimes in the Greek territory, acting as general preliminary investigation officers.

1.4 What is the general approach of the authorities in enforcing the applicable laws and regulations?

Investigative and preliminary investigation agencies, in carrying out their duties, are guided by a strong sense of duty to investigate and solve any criminal case.

However, prior to the hearing stage, the investigative bodies must respect the principles of confidentiality and legitimacy of the proceedings in accordance with their specific aspects – namely:

  • the presumption of innocence; and
  • in general, the rights of the suspect/defendant enshrined in:
    • the Code of Criminal Procedure;
    • the Constitution; and
    • the international agreements to which Greece is a signatory (ie, the European Convention of Human Rights, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights).

With the aim of streamlining the Greek criminal justice system, discussions are underway on the establishment of a special police force – the Judicial Police – which may be helpful in speeding up the investigation process through specialised and properly trained staff.

2 Scope of application,

2.1 Can both individuals and companies be prosecuted under the white collar crime laws? Under what circumstances are employees' actions attributable to the company?

As a general principle of Greek criminal law, criminal proceedings can only be initiated against natural persons. In practice, as far as white collar crime cases are concerned, this means that only natural persons can be charged with financial crimes, such as the legal representative, the managers and the board members of a company – whether jointly or severally, depending on the scope of their duties in relation to the management of the company.

Nevertheless, there is growing discussion in Greek and European legal doctrines about the importance of making companies, as legal persons, liable under criminal law. Indeed, in many countries, a corporate criminal code has already been adopted. There are ongoing theoretical and academic discussions about similar changes in the Greek legal system.

2.2 Can foreign companies be prosecuted under the white collar crime laws?

The Greek legal order does not recognise criminal liability of legal persons – only of the legal representatives and board members of the relevant legal entity. Nevertheless, there is a growing movement to establish criminal liability for legal persons. Several states have reformed their criminal laws at the national level in order to provide for the criminal liability of legal persons. In addition, international forums with considerable political and economic power have stressed the need for legislative changes with regard to the liability of legal persons arising from criminal offences.

Examples include:

  • the 2019 G20 Leaders' Joint Statement;
  • the United Nations Convention against Corruption;
  • the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials; and
  • Recommendation 88/2018 of the Council of Europe entitled "Liability of companies that are legal persons for crimes committed in the performance of their activities".

2.3 Can successor companies be prosecuted under the white collar crime laws?

The Criminal Code and the separate criminal laws do not recognise the criminal liability of legal persons – only of legal representatives and board members of a legal entity. In particular, with regard to issues of general or specific succession of legal persons by other legal persons, to the extent that it is proven that a company's business can be continued over time through successor companies, and considering that only natural persons can be criminally prosecuted in the case of a repeat offence, it is possible that persons of both the former company and the successor company may be found criminally liable.

2.4 Do the white collar crime laws have extraterritorial reach?

Article 5 of the Criminal Code provides that Greek criminal laws apply to all offences committed within the Greek territory, including those committed by non-nationals.

According to Article 6, the Greek criminal laws also apply to offences committed in a foreign country by a Greek citizen if such offences are considered punishable under the laws of the country in which they were committed.

Furthermore, according to Article 7, the Greek criminal laws apply to a foreign national where an act he or she committed in a foreign country:

  • was perpetrated against a Greek citizen; and
  • is punishable under the laws of the country in which it was committed.

In view of the above provisions, the Greek criminal laws, including those concerning white-collar offences, may apply outside Greece – regardless of whether the offences were committed in the Greek territory, by a Greek national abroad or against a Greek citizen abroad – provided that there is no precedent in a foreign country for the same incident which would lead to a serious breach of the fundamental procedural principle of ne bis in idem.

3 Offences

3.1 What types of white collar crimes are recognised in your jurisdiction and what do they involve?

In response to the need for the criminal assessment of offences in the business and economic sector, Greek law – either through the Criminal Code or through separate criminal laws – has standardised and penalised a significant number of white collar crimes. Among other things, the Criminal Code standardises the crimes of:

  • breach of trust (Article 390 of the Criminal Code);
  • fraud (Article 386 of the Criminal Code); and
  • embezzlement (Article 375 of the Criminal Code).

White collar crimes that are standardised under specific criminal laws include:

  • money laundering (Law 4557/2018–-5042/2023);
  • tax-related crimes (Law 4174/2013);
  • the issue of bounced cheques (Law 5960/1933);
  • breach of trade secrets (Law 146/1914);
  • non-payment of insurance contributions (Law 86/1967);
  • market manipulation and other offences relating to the proper functioning of the capital markets (Law 4443/2016, Law 4141/2013);
  • violation of provisions concerning the protection of free competition (Law 3959/2011); and
  • non-payment of debts to the Greek state (Law 1882/1990).

The above crimes are generally considered misdemeanours. However, in exceptional cases, they may also be considered felonies. This depends to a large extent on the gravity attributed to the act by the Greek legislation – a factor which is variable and dependent in certain cases on:

  • the amount of damage caused to the property of the victim; and
  • the identity of the person affected (eg, fraud against the Greek state).

3.2 How are predicate offences defined in your jurisdiction?

Money laundering is a dependent crime, since the offence depends on another prior offence from which the proceeds of the crime are derived and subsequently legalised.

A 'predicate offence' does not mean just any offence, but only one of those listed in Article 4 of the Law. These include:

  • organised crime;
  • bribery;
  • crimes against human life, physical integrity and personal freedom;
  • counterfeiting of currency;
  • theft;
  • embezzlement;
  • extortion;
  • fraud;
  • forgery;
  • sexual offences against adults and minors;
  • stock exchange offence;
  • tax evasion;
  • non-payment of debts to the state;
  • piracy;
  • IP infringements; and
  • any offence punishable by imprisonment or incarceration for more than three months resulting in illegal gains.

3.3 Do any restrictions or thresholds (eg, in terms of parties, asset type or transaction value) serve to limit the types of activities that constitute white collar crimes?

In general, the amount of illegal proceeds plays an important role in determining the classification of the offence as a white-collar crime. In particular, the threshold of illegal proceeds for qualifying an offence as a felony or misdemeanour is €120,000.

3.4 What are the most common offences for which company directors and officers can be held personally liable?

Greek criminal law does not provide for the criminal liability of legal persons – only natural persons. Thus, company directors, board members and managers may be found criminally liable for any unlawful act committed in the course of their duties.

However, in our experience, it is most often the case that legal representatives of companies are suspected or even accused in cases of fraud and breach of trust.

More specifically, fraud involves deceiving another person through misleading actions into an act, omission or acquiescence:

  • which results in damage to another person's property; and
  • where the purpose of such damage is to enable the person misleading or any other person to gain illegal profit.

The crime of breach of trust involves the perpetrator knowingly causing, in violation of the rules of good management, damage to the property of another person which he or she is under a legal duty to take care of or manage.

4 Compliance

4.1 Is the implementation of a compliance programme a regulatory requirement in your jurisdiction? If so, what should this cover?

Greece has no specific regulatory requirement that mandates all companies to implement a compliance programme in a standardised manner. However, companies may be subject to various laws and regulations that indirectly necessitate the establishment of effective compliance measures. With regard to anti-money laundering (AML) issues covered in Article 5 of Law 4557/2018, institutions and persons must implement relevant compliance programmes following the guidelines and regulations of the competent supervisory authorities. Compliance programmes should be designed to meet the minimum requirements set out in Greek law, which is aligned with EU directives and best practices. A robust AML compliance programme typically:

  • incorporates:
    • effective customer due diligence procedures;
    • thorough risk assessments;
    • ongoing employee training; and
    • adequate record-keeping and internal controls; and
  • establishes:
    • mechanisms for the ongoing monitoring of transactions to detect unusual or suspicious patterns of activity; and
    • procedures for reporting such transactions.

4.2 Does failure to implement an adequate compliance programme constitute a regulatory and/or criminal violation in your jurisdiction?

The supervisory authorities – such as the Hellenic Capital Market Commission and the Bank of Greece – play a crucial role in overseeing financial institutions and other entities for compliance with AML regulations. Failure to implement an adequate AML compliance programme can contribute to the facilitation of money laundering and may lead to regulatory enforcement actions, including fines, penalties and other administrative measures (eg, licence revocation). Regulatory authorities may also require remedial actions and improvements to the AML programme.

Money laundering is a criminal offence in Greece, and individuals or entities involved in money laundering activities may face criminal prosecution. All institutions and persons covered by Article 5 of Law 4557/2018 should implement AML compliance programmes, following the guidelines and regulations of the competent supervising authorities. Covered institutions, which are more vulnerable to money laundering activities (eg, banks, financial and insurance institutions), have more comprehensive and detailed AML compliance programmes. However, even natural persons such as lawyers and notaries must meet the standards set by the competent supervising authorities (eg, the Ministry of Justice, bar associations and notary associations).

4.3 What due diligence requirements apply in relation to customers, partners, suppliers etc?

Law 4557/2018 outlines a complex set of diligence rules for covered persons to follow, which apply to the following, among others:

  • new and existing clients;
  • high-risk individuals;
  • politically exposed persons (PEPs);
  • transactions in new financial products; and
  • transactions executed without the client's physical presence.

Financial institutions, including banks, must conduct thorough customer due diligence when establishing a business relationship with a customer. This involves:

  • identifying and verifying the identity of the customer;
  • understanding the nature of the business relationship; and
  • assessing the customer's risk profile.

Enhanced due diligence may be required for higher-risk customers (eg, PEPs or customers from high-risk jurisdictions). Entities should conduct due diligence on their partners, suppliers and other third parties to assess the risk of involvement in money laundering or other illicit activities. This may involve obtaining information on the third party's ownership structure, business activities and reputation.

Ongoing monitoring of customer transactions and business relationships is essential to identify any unusual or suspicious activities. If, during the due diligence process or ongoing monitoring, an entity identifies suspicious activities, it must report such transactions to the relevant authorities. Confirmation and verification of the identity of the customer and the beneficial owner must take place prior to the conclusion of the business relationship or execution of the transaction.

Such identity verification may be completed during the establishment of a business relationship, if necessary, so as not to interrupt the normal conduct of business where there is little risk of money laundering or terrorist financing. In such cases, the verification procedures are completed as soon as possible after the initial contact.

4.4 What books and records requirements apply in this context?

According to Article 30 of Law 4557/2018, as amended by Law 4734/2020, obligated persons must retain the following documents and information:

  • documents and information required for compliance with the due diligence requirements defined in Article 13 – including, where available, information obtained through:
    • electronic identification means;
    • related trust services as defined in EU Regulation 910/2014; or
    • any other secure, remote, or electronic identification process regulated, recognised, approved or accepted by the Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission;
  • originals or copies of documents necessary for the identification of transactions;
  • internal documents concerning approvals, findings or recommendations for cases related to the investigation of related offences or reported or unreported cases by the competent authority; and
  • information from business, commercial and professional correspondence with clients, as may be identified by regulatory authorities.

Records of verification of client identity and other customer due diligence records must usually be retained for at least five years, always taking into account the General Data Protection Regulation and relevant Greek laws.

4.5 What other compliance best practices should a company implement to mitigate the risk of white collar crime?

Mitigating the risk of white collar crime requires a comprehensive and proactive approach to compliance. The promotion of a culture of ethics and compliance throughout the organisation is essential. Leadership should set a tone of zero tolerance for white collar crimes and unethical behaviour. Key actions include:

  • conducting regular risk assessments to identify areas of vulnerability;
  • establishing a confidential and secure reporting mechanism for employees to report concerns about white collar crime without fear of retaliation.
  • conducting thorough due diligence when hiring employees or entering into business relationships with third parties;
  • undertaking regular internal and external audits to detect and prevent financial irregularities, fraud and embezzlement; and
  • establishing and enforcing policies to address conflicts of interest.

4.6 Must companies report financial irregularities or actual or potential violations?

Financial irregularities and actual or potential violations are typically subject to reporting requirements and companies are expected to comply with these regulations. Reporting mechanisms may include filing reports with supervisory bodies such as:

  • the Hellenic Capital Market Commission;
  • the Bank of Greece; and
  • the Hellenic Accounting and Auditing Standards Oversight Board.

A 'suspicious activity' is one which indicates that:

  • a money laundering offence has been committed or attempted; or
  • the transacting party may be involved in other criminal activity (predicate offences).

This assessment is made in view of:

  • the characteristics of the transaction;
  • the background of the client; and
  • the history of the client's transactions.

Suspicious transactions must be reported immediately to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). The Ministry of Finance has issued a series of circulars in respect of the application of anti-money laundering laws and regulations and bookkeeping obligations, setting out specific guidelines for auditors and accountants to report any transaction that gives rise to any suspicion that it is related to a criminal act to the FIU.

4.7 What factors will the authorities consider in assessing the adequacy of a compliance programme?

The main factors relate, among other things, to:

  • the organisation's ability to conduct a thorough and effective risk assessment to identify and understand its money laundering and terrorist financing risks;
  • the existence and effectiveness of:
    • written AML policies and procedures; and
    • clear guidelines on customer due diligence, enhanced due diligence and other AML-related processes;
  • the adequacy of customer due diligence processes, including the verification of customer identities and the assessment of associated risks;
  • the implementation of enhanced due diligence for high-risk customers, such as PEPs and customers from high-risk jurisdictions;
  • the organisation's commitment to providing regular AML training to employees;
  • the effectiveness of ongoing monitoring processes to detect and report suspicious activities;
  • the maintenance of accurate and up-to-date records related to customer due diligence, transactions and other AML compliance activities;
  • the organisation's ability to promptly report suspicious transactions to the relevant authorities;
  • internal communication channels for reporting and escalating AML-related concerns;
  • regular and independent reviews or audits of the AML programme to identify weaknesses and areas for improvement; and
  • the involvement and oversight of senior management in ensuring the effectiveness of the AML programme.

5 Investigations

5.1 How are investigations typically commenced in your jurisdiction?

Whether to inform the competent authority – essentially the relevant local public prosecutor's office – so that it can initiate prosecution proceedings for any offence, depends to a large extent on whether:

  • the crime in question is prosecuted at the request of the person affected; or
  • the authority conducts the prosecution on its own motion (ex officio).

If the offence in question is prosecuted following a petition, the competent authority may initiate criminal proceedings only if the petition has been lodged within three months of the date on which the person became aware that the offence had been committed, pursuant to Article 114 of the Criminal Code.

If the alleged offence is being prosecuted ex officio, the authority may be informed by means of a complaint filed by the victim. In such cases, the authority is also informed of the offence by the police or by a report issued by a judge if an event that can be classified as a criminal offence emerges during the court proceedings. Finally, the authority may also be informed by a report or complaint lodged by a third party.

In any case, the public prosecutor's office, upon becoming aware of any offence, must:

  • investigate the reported facts; and
  • if there is sufficient evidence, initiate criminal proceedings.

5.2 What investigative powers do the authorities have?

Once the public prosecutor has knowledge of an incident that may constitute a criminal offence, he or she must, as part of his or her prosecutorial duties, take the necessary steps to determine whether criminal prosecution is possible. To this end, the public prosecutor:

  • may request that a preliminary examination be carried out by the competent preliminary investigation bodies; and
  • usually instructs them to take witness statements and seek explanations from the suspect.

As part of any investigation into a potentially criminal offence, and in accordance with the principle of proportionality (Article 25 of the Constitution), in addition to examining witnesses and taking the defendant's statement, it is possible to seek expert opinions and conduct on-site examinations and investigations, physical examinations, confiscations and special investigation operations in order to combat organised crime and corruption under Articles 254 and 255 of the Code of Criminal Procedure

In particular, special investigation operations can be carried out by means of:

  • covert investigation;
  • infiltration; and
  • removal of the confidential status of correspondence and the protection of personal data.

In order to conduct such an investigation:

  • there must be a serious indication that a criminal offence has been committed; and
  • a reasoned decision must previously have been issued by the competent judicial council.

5.3 Can the authorities demand that a company under investigation produce documents? When can the authorities search the premises and seize documents of a company under investigation

It is common practice for law enforcement authorities to request that legal persons provide legal evidence and documents for the purpose of investigating any offences allegedly committed by natural persons related to the company – such as board members or directors – in the course of their duties.

Where deemed necessary by law enforcement authorities, and provided that the principles of proportionality and legality are complied with, the competent authorities may carry out a search on the premises of a company and seize any evidence. In particular, in order to conduct the investigation, in accordance with Article 256 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, a court official should be present during the search in order to ensure that the actions of the investigation bodies are legal. The same article provides that it is imperative that care be taken during the search by the persons conducting the investigation to avoid any unnecessary disclosure and any disruption of those present in the room. At the same time, the investigators must proceed with caution in order to safeguard the reputation of any persons who have no connection with the offence under investigation. Finally, the occupant of the premises must be present during the investigation.

5.4 Do the authorities typically cooperate with their foreign counterparts in conducting an investigation? If so, what is the process for doing so?

As Greece is an EU member state and has signed bilateral or multilateral agreements with third countries to cooperate in criminal matters, the Greek law enforcement authorities may also cooperate with other states in combating cross-border crimes.

This framework of cooperation covers both extradition issues and international judicial assistance for the purpose of conducting investigations. Where there is a legal basis for international judicial cooperation, the Greek authorities are entitled, where they deem this necessary, to send a request for judicial assistance or even an arrest warrant either:

  • under the European arrest warrant procedure; or
  • pursuant to a relevant bilateral or multilateral agreement.

On the other hand, where the competent Greek authorities receive a request from another country, as a general rule, they must proceed promptly by conducting the requested investigation or issuing an arrest warrant as requested.

5.5 What rights do companies and their directors and officers have during an investigation (eg, in relation to interviews/privacy and data protection)?

Any board members or legal representatives of a company who are suspected or charged in a criminal case have certain rights under:

  • the Code of Criminal Procedure;
  • the Constitution;
  • the European Convention on Human Rights; and
  • other international conventions.

Both suspects and defendants suspected of committing a potentially criminal offence have important rights. More specifically, they have:

  • the right to be represented by a defence lawyer;
  • the right to free legal advice if they cannot afford to pay for this;
  • the right to consult with a lawyer;
  • the right to receive a deadline to provide written statements or an explanation;
  • the right to be notified of and receive copies of the case file; and
  • the right to translation or interpretation services if they do not speak Greek.

Finally, their personal data is subject to constitutional and transnational protection. However, in certain cases – and always in accordance with the principles of proportionality and legality – it is possible for law enforcement authorities to request and secure the removal of phone and computer privacy for the purposes of their investigation.

In particular, if the preliminary examination for a potentially criminal offence is carried out by the public prosecutor for financial crime, the latter, under his or her prosecution powers, may seek:

  • access to tax, banking, stock exchange and any other private information not subject to the restrictions of the relevant legislation; and
  • the freezing of bank accounts, safe deposit boxes and any other assets.

For any of the above actions, the public prosecutor for financial crime must issue a specifically reasoned order and then serve it on the defendant, who in turn can lodge an appeal against it before the competent judicial council.

5.6 What rules govern attorney-client privilege in your jurisdiction and what are their implications in the context of white collar crime investigations?

Greek law makes sufficient provision for the protection of the confidentiality between lawyer and client at both:

  • the preliminary investigation stage before and after the prosecution; and
  • the court hearing.

According to Article 99(4) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, all communications between a suspect or defendant and his or her defence lawyer is confidential. Furthermore, according to Article 212:

  • lawyers cannot be examined by the court as witnesses if they provide testimony on matters subject to professional confidentiality; and
  • if they are examined, the proceedings are considered null and void.

In fact, any disclosure of this kind of confidential information constitutes a criminal offence under Greek law (Article 371 of the Criminal Code).

These provisions afford adequate protection to the defendant. Even if a court takes such business confidential information into account when sentencing a person, not only are there grounds for appeal against the decision, but also the proceedings are declared null and void – a fact which constitutes separate grounds for appeal pursuant to Article 510(1A) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

5.7 What factors will the authorities consider in assessing whether to bring charges?

Where the public prosecutor is informed in any manner of the commission of a possible offence, he or she must investigate whether a criminal prosecution should be brought against the alleged perpetrators. This investigation takes place at the order of the competent prosecutor for a preliminary examination. A preliminary examination is mandatory, according to Article 43 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, in case of a felony or a misdemeanour under the jurisdiction of a three-member misdemeanour court. The relevant prosecutor's order to conduct a preliminary examination is given in most cases to the locally competent police departments and magistrates courts. Its purpose is to ensure whether there is sufficient evidence for the initiation of a criminal prosecution. Following this examination, and subject to the principle of legality, if there is sufficient evidence, the prosecutor must initiate criminal proceedings. However, if there is insufficient evidence, the public prosecutor must not initiate criminal proceedings but instead keep a record of the complaint.

The decision on whether to initiate prosecution is governed by the principle of legality. However, applying the principle of legality regardless of the case can lead to unfair results. For this reason, in parts of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the principle of prosecution where it is opportune applies, as in some cases not initiating criminal prosecution could be considered advantageous in the sense that the social benefit from such prosecution would be less than the social damage caused by it (eg, non-prosecution in cases where the possibility of prosecution for a crime is a deterrent to the disclosure of other more serious crimes whose punishment would benefit the public interest). The principle of prosecution where it is opportune does not mean deciding in an arbitrary manner whether to prosecute, but rather deciding in compliance with the principle of proportionality.

6 Enforcement

6.1 What is the structure of the criminal courts in your jurisdiction?

The Greek judicial system is separate from the legislative and executive branches of government, based on the principle of separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution. Criminal courts are divided, according to the separation of offences into misdemeanours and felonies, into misdemeanour courts and felony courts respectively. The former handle misdemeanours and the latter handle felonies, according to the classification given in the introductory documents to the criminal act that is to be the subject of the criminal proceedings.

The Greek criminal courts, whose operation is governed by the Code of Criminal Procedure, are responsible for:

  • applying the measures dictated by the criminal laws and the Criminal Code; and
  • determining the appropriate penalties.

Depending on the nature of the cases tried before them, they are subdivided hierarchically into:

  • single-member and three-member misdemeanour courts;
  • three-member courts of appeal;
  • single-member, three-member and five-member felony courts;
  • mixed jury courts; and
  • mixed jury courts of appeal.

The adjudication of crimes committed by specific categories of persons whose status necessitates the establishment of a special legal procedure is entrusted, by virtue of specific criminal laws, to special criminal courts – namely:

  • the Military Court;
  • the Naval Court;
  • the Airforce Court; and
  • the Juvenile Court.

At the top of the judicial hierarchy is the Supreme Court, which is the highest court of criminal justice in Greece. It has authority to monitor the correct application and interpretation of criminal law and, through its decisions, ensures the integrity of the case law.

6.2 Are white collar crimes tried by jury in your jurisdiction?

Considering the difficulty of establishing a clear definition of the concept, white collar crimes are classified as either misdemeanours or felonies, depending on the penalty imposed.

Although the power of the jury courts to adjudicate felonies has been a constitutional requirement of the Greek state since its inception and still is to this day, it has been visibly restricted by the ordinary Greek legislature.

Cases involving financial or administrative matters require highly specialised knowledge in technical and financial aspects and legal analysis of concepts, which take many years of research in the law to develop. Consequently, financial crimes constituting a felony have been excluded from the jurisdiction of mixed juries, as these cases are particularly complicated for jurors.

Depending on the gravity of the offence, white collar crimes will therefore fall under the jurisdiction of the aforementioned criminal courts, excluding the mixed jury courts.

6.3 What is the statute of limitations for prosecuting white collar crime in your jurisdiction?

Where a felony has been committed, the statute of limitations is:

  • 20 years if the law imposes a life sentence; and
  • 15 years in all other cases, unless the law provides otherwise (eg, in case of breach of trust that constitutes a felony against the Greek state, the statute of limitations expires after 20 years).

The statute of limitations for minor offences is five years. If more than one penalty is prescribed by law, the above time limits are calculated on the basis of the most serious penalty (Article 111 of the Code of Criminal Procedure).

Where the perpetrator commits a property crime repeatedly with the intention of obtaining, through his or her actions, an overall financial benefit as part of a single criminal scheme, it is necessary to take into account the total value of the property at stake. In this respect, the offence may be reclassified from a misdemeanour to a felony, in which case the statute of limitations for felonies will apply.

As a general rule, the statute of limitations begins to run from the date on which the offence is committed; while in cases of complicity, it begins to run from the moment the actual perpetrator commits the offence (Article 112 of the Code of Criminal Procedure).

The statute of limitations is suspended:

  • for as long as criminal proceedings cannot be initiated or continued; and
  • while the main proceedings are ongoing until the final verdict of conviction has been issued.

This suspension may be up to five years for felonies and three years for misdemeanours (Article 113 of the Criminal Code).

6.4 Can parties that voluntarily report white collar crime or cooperate with investigations benefit from leniency in your jurisdiction?

In criminal proceedings, if the perpetrator shows sincere remorse and seeks to remedy or mitigate the consequences of his or her act, this is considered an extenuating circumstance (Articles 84 and 85 of the Criminal Code), which the defendant must:

  • invoke through his or her lawyer; and
  • demonstrate at the last stage of the criminal proceedings (ie, the determination of the sentence).

If the perpetrator actively participates in the police investigation or provides material compensation to the affected person, the court will consider this to be a positive step in establishing whether there are extenuating circumstances. It is left to the discretion of the court to assess the facts of the case and exercise leniency by reducing the sentence. The same applies where, in extenuating circumstances, the defendant has already pleaded guilty at the preliminary stage of the proceedings, contributing thereby to the prompt administration of justice.

The defendant's request for extenuating circumstances, made by his or her lawyer, constitutes an independent plea. That means that, insofar as the request is specific, if the court decides to reject it, it must give adequate reasons for its decision. Otherwise, there will be an independent ground for challenging the decision under Article 510(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

6.5 Can the existence of a compliance programme constitute a defence to charges of white collar crime?

Greek criminal law provides for the criminal liability of natural persons exclusively, even for crimes committed on behalf of a legal person; the liability of the legal person itself is limited to civil and administrative sanctions. Responsibility for the establishment and observance of security measures to prevent and avoid financial offences is entrusted to the natural persons who oversee the management of the legal entity and are entrusted with the power to take decisions and exercise decisive powers.

As a due diligence measure, it is essential for the company's managers to call for the introduction of a compliance programme to prevent corruption, bribery and other types of white collar crimes.

6.6 What other defences are available to parties charged with white collar crime?

At the hearing stage, the defendant, through his or her defence attorney, is not required to prove his or her innocence. More specifically, he or she must convince the court that there is reasonable doubt of his or her guilt, which demonstrates the enforcement of the fundamental principle of in dubio pro reo in Greek criminal procedural law.

In this respect, during the main proceedings and the stage when evidence is presented, the defendant must create doubt in the eyes of the court, through documents and witnesses, as to whether he or she is in fact responsible for the incident in question in order to be found innocent.

Therefore, in accordance with the principle of moral proof and the interrogation system applicable during the collection of evidence, the means of proving the innocence or guilt of the defendant include:

  • evidence;
  • witnesses;
  • documents;
  • on-site inspections;
  • expert reports; and
  • the defendant's own confession.

6.7 Can parties negotiate a pre-trial settlement through plea bargaining, settlement agreements or similar?

In recent years, in response to delays in the administration of justice, institutions of Anglo-Saxon law have begun to appear in the Greek legal system, enabling the quasi-out-of-court resolution of criminal disputes. The institutions of criminal conciliation (Articles 301 and 302 of the Code of Criminal Procedure) and criminal negotiation (Article 303 of the Code of Criminal Procedure) are part of this approach.

Conciliation is provided for both before the end of the investigation (Article 301 of the Code of Criminal Procedure) and afterwards (Article 302 of the Code of Criminal Procedure). In both forms of institution, the procedure is initiated by a request made by the defendant to the competent prosecutor. Its purpose is to expedite the administration of justice by exchanging the suspect/defendant's confession for a reduced sentence on condition that the affected person is fully compensated for the perpetrator's unlawful conduct.

On the other hand, negotiation (Article 303 of the Code of Criminal Procedure) can be initiated both before the formal conclusion of the interrogation or preliminary hearing and at the hearing before the start of the presentation of evidence – once again at the request of the defendant. In this case too, the defendant's confession will be exchanged for a reduced sentence. Only the sentence can be subject to bargaining, but not the charge itself.

6.8 What penalties can be imposed for white collar crime? How are these determined? Can non-exhaustive penalties be imposed for such violations (eg, exclusion from public procurement, exclusion from entitlement to public benefits or aid, disqualification from the practice of certain commercial activities, judicial winding up)?

The punishments for white collar crimes vary depending on the type and severity of the offence, which is largely determined by the total value of the property at stake. The penalties prescribed, on a case-by-case basis, are:

  • monetary penalties;
  • imprisonment for misdemeanours; and
  • imprisonment for felonies.

In particular, prison sentences for misdemeanours, depending on the gravity of the offence, may range from 10 days to five years (Article 53 of the Criminal Code). Provisional imprisonment, which is applicable to felonies, ranges from five to 15 years (Article 52 of the Code of Criminal Procedure).

Additional penalties may be imposed by the court (Article 59 of the Code of Criminal Procedure). These include:

  • disqualification from holding office;
  • prohibition from exercising a profession;
  • publication of a conviction; and
  • confiscation of property.

6.9 What rights of appeal are available?

The Greek legal order provides for the remedies of appeal and revocation against both court rulings and judicial council decisions. The grounds for an appeal against a decision issued by a judicial council are, according to Article 478 of the Code of Criminal Procedure:

  • absolute invalidity; and
  • incorrect interpretation or application of a fundamental criminal law.

Revocation of a judgment may be sought on the grounds of:

  • absolute invalidity;
  • incorrect interpretation or application of a fundamental criminal law;
  • breach of res judicata or lis pendens;
  • lack of specific reasoning;
  • unlawful rejection of the appeal against a judgment as inadmissible; and
  • abuse of power.

An appeal against decisions of a judicial council may be brought by the defendant and the prosecutor, to the exclusion of any right in favour of the civil claimant in the criminal proceedings.

A conviction may be appealed by the defendant and the prosecutor under Article 489 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. An acquittal may be appealed by the prosecutor and the defendant under Article 486 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Finally, a challenge may be lodged by the defendant and the prosecutor only against irrevocable decisions.

The sole grounds for appeal are those listed strictly in Article 510 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, as follows:

  • absolute or relative invalidity of the proceedings at the hearing;
  • infringement of the provisions on disclosure at the hearing;
  • lack of specific reasoning;
  • incorrect interpretation or application of a fundamental criminal law;
  • infringement of res judicata and lis pendens;
  • incompetence of the court hearing the case;
  • unlawful dismissal of the appeal as inadmissible or unsubstantiated; and
  • abuse of power.

It is therefore evident that the person affected by the offence is not entitled to legal remedy in his or her capacity as a party present in support of the charge. This omission is compensated for in practice by a request made by the civil claimant to the competent public prosecutor for an appeal or challenge, if and when he or she has such a right by law.

7 Alternatives to prosecution

7.1 What alternatives to criminal prosecution are available where the authorities find evidence of white collar crime?

Due to the large volume of cases handled by the Greek criminal justice system and the consequent delays, alternative forms of justice have emerged in recent years. The aim of these institutions is to reduce the workload of the criminal courts. Articles 301-303 of the Code of Criminal Procedure contain provisions on criminal conciliation and criminal negotiation.

Criminal conciliation is initiated by a request made by the defendant to the competent public prosecutor either before or after completion of the main or preliminary examination. The prosecuting authority in charge sets a deadline for the preparation of a conciliation report. In essence, the defendant's confession is exchanged for a reduced sentence on condition that the person affected is fully compensated.

On the other hand, criminal negotiations are again initiated at the request of the defendant, either:

  • before the end of the main or preliminary examination; or
  • at the hearing before the start of the presentation of evidence.

As far as the scope of the negotiation is concerned, it only covers the sentence to be imposed and not the content of the charges. Negotiation in Greece generally takes the form of sentence bargaining, excluding charge bargaining.

7.2 What procedures are involved in concluding an investigation in this way?

With regard to conciliation, the procedure is initiated by the submission of a petition on behalf of the defendant before the competent public prosecutor. The public prosecutor then summons the parties involved, together with their attorneys, and grants a 15-day deadline to prepare a conciliation statement. If the parties reach an agreement, they sign the statement and the competent public prosecutor sends it to the prosecutor of the court of appeal, who submits the case to the single-member court of appeal, which in turn issues a reduced sentence to the defendant.

Negotiation is initiated by the submission of a petition by the defendant to the competent public prosecutor. In this case, the procedure involves only the public prosecutor and the defendant. The public prosecutor is not obliged to initiate a negotiation procedure where the defendant submits a petition and in fact may decide not to proceed if, in his or her view, a negotiated sentence is not warranted in this case. Five days after the conclusion of the negotiation statement, the case is brought before the single-member misdemeanour court or the single-member court of felonies respectively. The court hearing the case will declare the defendant guilty on the basis of the confession made in the negotiation statement but may improve the legal classification of the offence to the benefit of the defendant.

7.3 What factors will determine whether such alternatives to prosecution are to be offered to those who have been involved in white collar crime?

The success of conciliation or negotiation depends on whether the offence under investigation falls under the cases that allow for this procedure. Conciliation may be initiated for the following felonies:

  • forgery (Articles 216(4) and (5) of the Criminal Code);
  • false certification of an official document (Articles 242(3), (4) and (5) of the Criminal Code);
  • non-violent or threatening offences against property or assets (ie, grand theft) (Article 374 of the Criminal Code);
  • embezzlement of more than €120,000 (Articles 375(2) and (3) of the PC);
  • fraud and computer fraud exceeding €120,000 (Articles 386(1)(b), 386A(1)(b) and 386(2) of the Criminal Code);
  • fraud concerning grants exceeding €120,000 (Article 386B(1)(b) of the Criminal Code);
  • breach of trust exceeding €120,000 (Articles 390(1)(b) and 390(2) of the Criminal Code);
  • false solemn declaration whereby the perpetrator intended to obtain a financial benefit of more than €75,000 (Article 22(6)(b) of Law 1599/1986);
  • fraud against EU funds (Article 4 of Law 2803/2000);
  • smuggling/trafficking exceeding €150,000 (Article 157(1)(c) of Law 2960/2001);
  • money laundering (Law 4557/2018); and
  • tax evasion (Article 66 of Law 4174/2013).

Conciliation is also allowed for the following misdemeanours:

  • forgery (Articles 216(1) and (2) of the Criminal Code);
  • false certification (Article 242(1) of the Criminal Code);
  • violation of the law on solemn declarations (Law 1599/1986);
  • violation of the law on community fraud (Law 2803/2000);
  • misdemeanour breaches of the Customs Code (Law 2960/2001);
  • money laundering (Law 4557/2018);
  • misdemeanour (minor) cases of tax evasion (Law 4173/2013); and
  • non-violent misdemeanours committed against assets and property.

Negotiation, on the other hand, is allowed for all criminal offences – both felonies and misdemeanours – which are prosecuted ex officio, subject to certain explicit exceptions. More specifically, negotiation cannot be initiated on felonies that are:

  • subject, apart from a provisional sentence, to a life sentence; or
  • provided for in:
    • Article 187A of Criminal Code (ie, terrorist acts); or
    • Chapter 19 of the Criminal Code (ie, sexual felonies and sexual exploitation for economic gain).

7.4 How common are these alternatives to prosecution? What, if anything, could lead to an increase in their use?

In general, the alternatives to ordinary criminal proceedings are not widely accepted or frequently applied in practice, causing increasing pressure on court workloads.

It is up to all actors involved in the administration of criminal justice in Greece – lawyers, judges and prosecutors – to promote the institutions of conciliation and negotiation. By doing so, it may be possible to reduce the volume of court cases, which in turn will improve the criminal justice system.

8 Private enforcement

8.1 Are private enforcement actions for white collar crims available in your jurisdiction? If so, where are they brought and what process do they follow?

As the prosecution of crimes is the responsibility of the public prosecutors, the only way for persons affected by offences to obtain compensation is to seek it through the civil courts.

The victim of a white collar crime or any other person entitled to compensation may bring an action against the natural or legal person that caused the damage seeking compensation for any sustained damages or future loss of profits incurred.

Under Greek law, civil proceedings can be distinguished from criminal proceedings as they concern disputes between two or more opposing parties without the involvement of the state. Depending on the nature and extent of the damages sought, the civil courts which handle the first-instance proceedings can be divided into:

  • the magistrates court; and
  • the single or multi-member court of first instance.

According to the latest amendments to the Code of Civil Procedure, the proceedings are mainly conducted in writing. The applicant brings an action before the competent court, in which he or she specifies and gives reasons for, among other things, the amount, source and cause of his or her claim against the defendant; this is then served on the defendant. Within a prescribed period, the applicant and the defendant must lodge a statement of their pleadings containing their arguments in support of the action, with the applicant seeking to establish the merits of the action and the defendant seeking to oppose it. The case file is closed with the filing of a statement of opposition by the applicant in which he or she refutes any new allegations contained in the defendant's pleadings.

The hearing of the case is usually conducted formally and not orally. After the court has examined the file, it will issue a decision either:

  • upholding all or part of the action and awarding the applicant all or part of the claim sought; or
  • dismissing it on the grounds of formal or substantive irregularities.

8.2 What types of relief may be sought and what types of relief are most commonly awarded? How is the relief to be awarded determined?

The applicant's claim can have a legal basis both in and out of contract, depending on whether the applicant and the defendant are bound by a contractual relationship. In any event, it is possible to seek compensation for financial loss caused by offences such as embezzlement or fraud. Restitution may also be sought for property or goods taken or acquired through illegal activities that fall within the scope of white collar crime. At the same time, it may be possible to apply for injunctive relief in order to prevent the imminent risk or continuation of illegal damaging activities.

The court will take into account the allegations raised in the proceedings and the evidence presented. It will examine the legitimacy, validity and relevance of the applicant's claim with regard to:

  • the amount of compensation sought; and
  • the legal and factual basis of the claim.

The civil judgment is not binding on the criminal court, although the judge must take it into account in his or her judgment. Furthermore, the defendant and the civil claimant within criminal proceedings may, after a request has been made to the court hearing the case, seek a stay of proceedings in the criminal case pending the outcome of the relevant civil judgment (Article 61 of the Code of Criminal Procedure).

8.3 Can the decision in a private enforcement action be appealed? If so, how?

As a general rule, in case of irregularities in the judgment of the civil court at first instance, any of the parties involved may appeal if they have a direct, individual and immediate interest in doing so. The appellant must lodge a statement of appeal with the competent court within a specified period, indicating the grounds on which he or she considers that the judgment is defective. The competent court to hear the appeal is always the court higher in rank than that which heard the appeal at first instance.

Before proceeding to examine the merits of the appeal, the court and the presiding judge must determine the admissibility of the appeal as a whole and the individual grounds of appeal. Once the admissibility of even one ground of appeal has been established, the court will proceed to examine the merits of the admissible grounds of appeal. Following this, the judge will either:

  • allow the appeal in whole or in part; or
  • dismiss the appeal as unfounded as to its merits or as unfounded by law.

At the end of the appeal proceedings, a further challenge may be brought before the Supreme Court in order to rectify a legal error in the appeal decision. The only grounds for a challenge which may be raised are those mentioned in the restrictive provisions of Article 559(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure.

9 Cyber issues

9.1 How do the white collar crime laws dovetail with cyber laws in your jurisdiction?

The rapid development of new technologies, for all its benefits, has also provided abundant opportunities for cybercriminals. This also has an impact on white collar crimes, given that the two types of crimes are more closely intertwined today than ever before.

Many white collar crimes are committed through the use of technology. For example, computer fraud (Article 386A of the Criminal Code) is carried out by tampering with a computer system in order to obtain illegal profits.

Also, Article 370Γ of the Criminal Code penalises the unlawful duplication, use and violation of computer data or programs that constitute trade secrets. Paragraph 2 of this article provides for a distinctive variation of the same offence, which occurs where:

  • the perpetrator is employed by the owner of the data; or
  • the trade secret is of considerable financial value.

9.2 What specific considerations, concerns and best practices should companies be aware of with regard to white collar crime prevention in the cyber sphere?

Generally speaking, in order to protect themselves from financial cybercrime, it is essential that businesses put in place robust internal procedures and advanced software systems.

In particular, a sound and effective internal control system, which operates according to international standard best practices, should:

  • identify in advance the risks and gaps that may exist in the company's electronic operations; and
  • notify the company's management so that they can take the necessary measures to protect not only the company, but also its directors and legal representatives, from the risk of cybercrime.

From a technical point of view, it is essential for every legal entity to:

  • have anti-spyware and firewall software systems in place; and
  • update them on a regular basis.

10 Trends and predictions

10.1 How would you describe the current white collar crime enforcement landscape and prevailing trends in your jurisdiction? Are any new developments anticipated in the next 12 months, including any proposed legislative reforms?

The legal framework in Greece was recently overhauled. In general, it is considered to be people-centric and respectful of human rights – particularly those of suspects/defendants. Moreover, Greece's participation in bodies such as the European Union and the Council of Europe make the country a stakeholder in international developments, as the legal rules established by these bodies are directly applicable in all member states and constitute rules of higher legislative force.

However, in the near future, a new bill is expected to be submitted for discussion in the Parliament which would amend the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure. The main aim of the revision is twofold:

  • to introduce stricter penalties; and
  • to expedite the administration of justice.

10.2 What high-profile white collar crime cases have arisen in your jurisdiction in recent times?

According to the results of surveys conducted by international auditing firms, bribery and corruption are the most prevalent forms of white collar crime in the Greek market, significantly exceeding the international and European rates. Other forms of white collar crime that have been detected to a high degree include:

  • asset misappropriation;
  • money laundering; and
  • tax crimes.

Many white collar crimes are committed against the state and, as their nature suggests, are largely committed by financially and possibly politically influential persons. The most prominent cases include the so-called 'arms scandal', which was prosecuted at first instance in 2013 and implicated political and government officials. In the report issued by the prosecutors investigating the case, it was alleged that assets totalling CHF 16.2 million were kept hidden as proceeds of passive corruption of a then government minister, based on contracts for the supply of military equipment. A further report was made of bribes amounting to CHF 2.9 million in relation to contracts involving submarines, in the form of illegal fees.

11 Tips and traps

11.1 What are your top tips for the smooth implementation of a robust compliance programme and what potential sticking points would you highlight?

Our key tip for the smooth implementation of a robust compliance programme is to continually foster a solid compliance culture. Compliance should not be treated as a mere checkbox exercise. Elements of a strong, successful compliance culture include:

  • leadership commitment;
  • thorough risk management;
  • the development of clear and comprehensive policies and procedures;
  • the provision of regular training to employees;
  • the protection of whistleblowers; and
  • the implementation of ongoing monitoring and auditing processes.

The compliance programme should be regularly reviewed and updated. Potential sticking points include:

  • resource constraints;
  • inadequate enforcement;
  • cultural resistance;
  • global compliance challenges; and
  • technological challenges.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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