General context, key principles and hot topics
1 Identify the highest-profile corporate investigation under way in your country, describing and commenting on its most noteworthy aspects.
Based on the findings of a financial investigation conducted by third parties, it was revealed that, from 2001 to 2017, the management of a Greek-based international company that designs, manufactures and distributes luxury jewellery and watches had falsified its financial statements by inflating its sales, profits and equity through virtual purchases and sales. These fictitious transactions allegedly took place between 27 companies in different parts of the world, mainly in Asia. After the conclusion of a preliminary inquiry and a formal investigation, the Indicting Chamber with the Court of Athens decided on the indictment of the former chief executive officer and other defendants, including the founder of the company, on the charges of forming a criminal organisation, falsifying the company’s financial statements, market abuse, money laundering and embezzlement.
Other major investigations have been conducted in relation to multinational companies that have reportedly been systematically giving money to public officials to secure awards of multimillion-euro government contracts in respect of advanced communication systems, medical supplies and military expenditure (such as Siemens, Johnson & Johnson/DePuy, HDW/Ferrostaal and STN). Investigations have also targeted acts of corruption of former government officials in relation to facilitating payments and tax fraud schemes through real estate deals.
2 Outline the legal framework for corporate liability in your country.
Criminal liability is an exception when referring to a legal entity because, under Greek law, only an individual may be liable for a criminal act. However, harmonisation with international corporate standards, and the need to bring internal legislation in line with European and international instruments, has led to provisions for liability of entities in the form of administrative measures and fines, among other things.
Corporate conduct may be punishable in certain cases. Company conduct (e.g., in the context of anti-corruption, anti-money laundering and anti-cartel legislation) is usually punishable when it is linked with positive gains or advantages. The company is liable as an entity – notwithstanding the individual liability of employees – when there is some type of profit, gain or advantage to the company. The severity of punishment in these cases (in the form of administrative penalties or fines) usually depends on the type of profit or gain, and the annual turnover of the company.
3 Which law enforcement authorities regulate corporations? How is jurisdiction between the authorities allocated? Do the authorities have policies or protocols relating to the prosecution of corporations?
The responsibility for the investigation of corporate conduct lies with regulatory and prosecuting authorities (depending on the scope of the investigation) but the responsibility for criminal prosecution of corporate conduct always lies with the Prosecutor’s Office. Regulatory authorities may investigate – within their scope – corporate conduct (e.g., the Competition Commission for cartel offences or the Capital Market Commission for insider dealing or market abuse), and any findings relating to criminal offences are forwarded to the Prosecutor’s Office to decide on further proceedings.
It is most common for the Economic and Financial Crime Unit (SDOE) to undertake the necessary preliminary investigations, evidence gathering, reports and so on, following a prosecutorial order. In cases of money laundering, the Greek Financial Intelligence Unit gathers all necessary information and evidence, and if it believes there is enough to support a criminal case, it forwards the case to the Prosecutor’s Office.
The Prosecutor’s Office opens a case against the natural person or officers of an entity, following standard criminal procedure, namely conducting a preliminary investigation, filing charges and making a referral to investigation (conducted by an investigating judge). It is not unusual in serious and complex cases (e.g., corruption, large-scale money laundering and fraud) for enforcement agencies and the Prosecutor’s Office to take action to secure evidence (by issuing either a warrant for search and seizure or a freezing order) before any charges are filed and before persons of interest are called for questioning.
Companies are not criminally prosecuted because they are not criminally liable, but sanctions are imposed against them in the form of administrative penalties for the actions of individuals held liable for criminal acts from which the companies have benefited.
4 What grounds must the authorities have to initiate an investigation? Is a certain threshold of suspicion necessary to trigger an investigation?
A preliminary investigation is initiated by the Prosecutor’s Office following a notitia criminis, namely a criminal complaint (by an individual or entity, usually the victim of a crime) against certain persons, or information submitted to the Prosecutor’s Office by another authority, or even information that has come to the knowledge of the Prosecutor’s Office through the media or any other sources, and it is usually the very first stage of the proceedings. It is ordered by a prosecutor, unless an agency or enforcement authority may by law gather evidence and information through a preliminary enquiry and submit a request to the Prosecutor’s Office for further investigation. All preliminary investigations, apart from regular tax reviews, are supervised by the Prosecutor’s Office.
The standard of proof to open a preliminary investigation is low. Even slim evidence of an alleged criminal offence (e.g., unconfirmed press reports or anonymous information) may justify a preliminary investigation.
5 How can the lawfulness or scope of a notice or subpoena from an authority be challenged in your country?
The prosecutor or the investigating judge who supervises the investigation should be informed regarding any objections raised against a notice or subpoena. Also, if there is a disagreement between a defendant and the prosecutor or the investigating judge regarding such matters, the validity or lawfulness of a notice or subpoena could be challenged before the Judicial Council, according to the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
6 Does your country make use of co-operative agreements giving immunity or leniency to individuals who assist or co-operate with authorities?
Yes. Articles 263A and 187C of the Criminal Code (CC) provide for immunity or leniency for individuals who inform or assist (or both) the prosecuting authorities in corruption cases (263A) or cases involving criminal or terrorist organisations (187C).
7 What are the top priorities for your country’s law enforcement authorities?
The detection and prosecution of corruption is one of the main goals of prosecuting and enforcement authorities. Legal provisions in respect of acts of corruption were amended three times between 2014 and 2019 to conform with international instruments. Greece has ratified all major EU and international conventions and has passed internal legislation to comply with them. However, continuous amendment of existing legislation creates legal uncertainty and poses complex issues in respect of pending investigations or ongoing trial hearings. More generally, it is apparent that an integrated anti-corruption policy is needed, including better coordination of various legal instruments and anti-corruption agencies.
8 To what extent do law enforcement authorities in your jurisdiction place importance on a corporation having an effective compliance programme? What guidance exists (in the form of official guidance, speeches or case law) on what makes an effective compliance programme?
The CC, in Article 236 paragraph 3 (bribery of a public official) and Article 237 paragraph 3 (bribery of a member of the judiciary), stipulates that a director of a corporation who negligently failed to prevent the commission of the stated bribery offences by an employee of the corporation is punishable by imprisonment for up to five years and a monetary penalty. Therefore, not having an effective compliance programme in place will be deemed an illegal act punishable by the above-mentioned statutes if an act of bribery for the benefit of the company is committed by that company’s employees.
Moreover, Law 4706/2020 on Corporate Governance and Capital Market Modernisation (published 17 July 2020) stipulates that a corporation is obliged to have an effective compliance programme in place as part of its Regulation of Internal Operations. Guidance is provided by the regulating bodies of each sector (such as the Bank of Greece), which issue by-laws stating the minimum requirements of compliance.
9 Does your country regulate cybersecurity? Describe the approach of local law enforcement authorities in your country to cybersecurity-related failings.
In 2016, Greece transposed Directive 2013/40/EU on attacks against information systems, replacing Council Framework Decision 2005/222/JHA, and amended its criminal legislation accordingly to strengthen cybersecurity protection; in particular, under the Criminal Code (CC), to punish:
- hindering the operation of information systems (Article 292B);
- the supply of hardware or software for the purpose of hindering the operation of information systems (Article 292C);
- unlawful access to an information system (Article 370C);
- unlawful extraction of data from an information system (Article 370D); and
- computer fraud (Article 386A)
The investigation of criminal cases in relation to the above-mentioned crimes is handled by the Cyber Crime Division of the Hellenic Police. After its investigation is finished, it forwards the case file to the prosecutors with the court of first instance.
10 Does your country regulate cybercrime? What is the approach of law enforcement authorities in your country to cybercrime?
All regular crimes committed with the use of a computer are punished by Greek law. Special provisions can be found for the crimes of child pornography and attracting children for sexual purposes through information systems (CC, Articles 348A and 348B). The Cyber Crime Division of the Hellenic Police also handles the investigation of cybercrimes.
Cross-border issues and foreign authorities
11 Does local criminal law have general extraterritorial effect? To the extent that extraterritorial effect is limited to specific offences, give details.
As a general rule, Greek law does not have extraterritorial effect. Enforcement and sanctions imposed by the Greek authorities are not effective in other jurisdictions unless they meet the requirements of mutual assistance in criminal matters and mutual recognition of judgments through bilateral and multilateral treaties.
12 Describe the principal challenges that arise in your country in cross-border investigations, and explain whether and how such challenges depend on the other countries involved.
Cross-border investigations and co-operation with other countries’ law enforcement or prosecutorial authorities have become common practice in large-scale investigations. Special law enforcement agencies, such as the Economic and Financial Crime Unit, have entered into agreements with similar agencies in other countries, which has enabled a faster and more efficient exchange of information. Agreements between agencies usually follow framework agreements or treaties between countries. In the case of Greece, most aspects of international co-operation are treaty-based. There are two sets of rules applicable to this prosecutorial co-operation, one of which applies to co-operation with Member States of the European Union (in these cases, all procedures and functions are simplified and faster). In all other cases, provisions for mutual assistance apply (for investigating acts or requests for information).
Greek legislation has undergone a series of amendments to fully comply with international treaties and the obligations arising from Greece’s participation in international organisations, among others. However, the introduction of new legislation and measures not totally compatible with existing procedures and practices has prevented a smooth integration of new measures with traditional prosecutorial and investigative practices. Also, efforts to adjust legislation to international instruments as much as possible (especially in combating corruption and money laundering) have led, in many instances, to the powers of different law enforcement agencies overlapping, and there is no general rule or central authority to resolve such issues or to propose any necessary adjustments.
13 Does double jeopardy, or a similar concept, apply to prevent a corporation from facing criminal exposure in your country after it resolves charges on the same core set of facts in another? Is there anything analogous in your jurisdiction to the ‘anti-piling on’ policy as exists in the United States (the Policy on Coordination of Corporate Resolution Penalties) to prevent multiple authorities seeking to penalise companies for the same conduct?
The rules on double jeopardy, or ne bis in idem, are not directly applicable to entities as they are not the subject of a criminal prosecution. These rules may be applied indirectly (through examination of individual criminal liability) but this is a disputed matter.
14 Are ‘global’ settlements common in your country? What are the practical considerations?
No. In certain cases, Greece has entered into a settlement in the context of ad hoc agreements with the companies under investigation. These types of settlements do not cover the criminal liability of individuals, such as directors or employees of the company.
15 What bearing do the decisions of foreign authorities have on an investigation of the same matter in your country?
Foreign decisions are usually taken into account by Greek courts in relation to the findings regarding the merits of the case, but they do not bar Greek proceedings from advancing. The Greek state, in practice, applies its law to companies for conduct within the country or for acts that have effects within the country. In this respect, Greek authorities seek to impose the law on companies either registered in Greece or active in the Greek economy (e.g., companies with registered offices in other countries that have agencies or subsidiaries in Greece).
Economic sanctions enforcement
16 Describe your country’s sanctions programme and any recent sanctions imposed by your jurisdiction.
Greece does not have its own sanctions programme but sanctions are imposed through EU Regulations, which are directly applicable, and by UN Resolutions, which are implemented by Presidential Decrees.
17 What is your country’s approach to sanctions enforcement? Has there been an increase in sanctions enforcement activity in recent years, for example?
Greece does not have its own sanctions programme. Information regarding sanctions enforcement can be found through the EU sanctions map, which is published online.
18 Do the authorities responsible for sanctions compliance and enforcement in your country co-operate with their counterparts in other countries for the purposes of enforcement?
As regards the freezing and unfreezing of assets of states, legal persons, legal entities or natural persons imposed by UN Security Council resolutions, UN decisions or pursuant to EU Regulations or Decisions, for any legitimate reason under international law, the competent authority is Unit B of the Hellenic Financial Intelligence Unit. As regards restrictions on imports and exports, the competent authority is the General Directorate of International Economic Policy, Directorate of Import-Export Regimes and Trade Instruments of the Ministry of Development and Competitiveness. These authorities often liaise, coordinate and communicate with their foreign counterparts to exchange information.
19 Has your country enacted any blocking legislation in relation to the sanctions measures of third countries? Describe how such legislation operates.
Council Regulation (EC) No. 2271/96 (known as the EU Blocking Regulation) is directly applicable in Greece.
20 To the extent that your country has enacted any sanctions blocking legislation, how is compliance enforced by local authorities in practice?
Regarding the freezing and unfreezing of assets of states, legal persons, legal entities or natural persons, Unit B of the Hellenic Financial Intelligence Unit, which is also known as the Financial Sanctions Unit, is responsible for enforcing such sanctions. The General Directorate of International Economic Policy of the Ministry of Development and Competitiveness has powers to enforce restrictions on imports and exports to specific countries. All sanctions are based on UN Security Council Resolutions, UN Decisions, or EU Regulations or Decisions.
Before an internal investigation
21 How do allegations of misconduct most often come to light in companies in your country?
Allegations of corporate misconduct most often come to light through investigations conducted by regulatory agencies such as the Competition Commission, the Capital Market Commission and the Financial Intelligence Unit in respect of breaches of regulations within their competence. The authorities regularly receive related information (officially and unofficially) from a number of sources, including whistleblowers. Self-reporting by companies is still rather unusual.
22 Does your country have a data protection regime?
- Regulation (EU) 2016/679 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (the General Data Protection Regulation) came into effect in May 2018. Legislation is currently being drafted to implement the Regulation.
- Law 4624/2019: Hellenic Data Protection Authority (HDPA), measures for implementing the General Data Protection Regulation.
- Law 2472/1997: Protection of Individuals with regard to the Processing of Personal Data.
- Law 3471/2006: Protection of personal data and privacy in the electronic telecommunications sector and amendment of Law 2472/1997.
- By-laws issued by the HDPA.
23 To the extent not dealt with above at question 9, how is the data protection regime enforced?
The HDPA is a constitutionally independent administrative authority that supervises the application of data protection laws and regulations, and imposes administrative sanctions on natural or legal persons who violate those laws. The primary mission of the HDPA is the protection of individuals from the unlawful processing of their personal data and providing assistance if it is established that an individual’s rights have been violated in any sector (such as financial, health, insurance, education, public administration, transport or mass media).
Moreover, criminal sanctions may be imposed by the courts on persons who violate data protection legislation.
24 Are there any data protection issues that cause particular concern in internal investigations in your country?
Internal investigations are not regulated by special legal provisions, so the general rules concerning data protection and privileges apply. As a general rule, employees must be loyal to the company they serve, handle sensitive information with care and avoid activities that conflict with the company’s interests. Nevertheless, the company, as an employer, must respect and protect sensitive personal information about its employees and any personal communications.
25 Does your country regulate or otherwise restrict the interception of employees’ communications? What are its features and how is the regime enforced?
It is common practice, also recognised by the Greek courts, for an employer to have access to its employees’ business communications, such as emails, calls or text messages circulated through the company’s communication infrastructure (servers, backup storage, etc.). In most cases, this type of access is provided for in the company’s internal work regulations and is agreed by both parties in the employment contract.
Dawn raids and search warrants
26 Are search warrants or dawn raids on companies a feature of law enforcement in your country? Describe any legal limitations on authorities executing search warrants or dawn raids, and what redress a company has if those limits are exceeded.
In the majority of cases, the authorities will send a written request to a company to provide certain information or documents. In principle, a company must co-operate with the authorities, at least in terms of providing requested information and documentation. Failure to comply with such a request usually has no direct consequences (unless otherwise provided for by law) but may lead to an unfavourable report by the authorities or an on-site search and seizure to obtain requested material.
In all cases, the company may object to handing over certain documents or material (e.g., privileged commercial information or correspondence) and refer to the Prosecutor’s Office to resolve the issue. In practice, when an on-site search is in progress, the company may not refuse to hand over material but may raise its objections regarding the nature of the material taken (e.g., privileged information) when signing the confiscation documents, in which case the material is sealed and taken by the agency, pending resolution of the issue by the courts.
On some occasions (depending on the scope and nature of an investigation), the company may be requested to submit its views in respect of the issues under investigation or to offer evidence in its defence (of any type: witnesses, bank records, correspondence, and others) contesting the views of the investigating authority (usually included in a draft report).
Dawn raids may take place in emergency situations (to secure evidence, for instance) and home searches are conducted in the presence of a prosecutor or magistrate.
27 How can privileged material be lawfully protected from seizure during a dawn raid or in response to a search warrant in your country?
According to Article 212 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP), information in the possession of clerics, lawyers, doctors, pharmacists and military diplomatic officials is considered privileged. During a search of its premises, a company may declare that certain documents are privileged information pursuant to Article 212 of the CCP. If the investigating authority contests this assertion, it will confiscate the documents, seal them without acquiring knowledge of their content and request the competent professional association to decide on the confidentiality of the seized documents. The general rule is that documents containing privileged information may not be included in the confiscated documents. This restriction is not applicable when the person protected by privilege (such as a lawyer, doctor or cleric) is under investigation as an accomplice in a criminal act. Personal documents of employees are protected to a certain extent, depending on the specifics of the case.
28 Under what circumstances may an individual’s testimony be compelled in your country? What consequences flow from such compelled testimony? Are there any privileges that would prevent an individual or company from providing testimony?
All authorities with the power to conduct investigations in their field (e.g., the Prosecutor’s Office, the police, the Financial and Economic Crime Unit and the Capital Market Commission) may request that individuals give statements following an order by the Prosecutor’s Office or in accordance with specific legal provisions. In cases of serious business crimes, the Prosecutor’s Office usually orders a specific person to give a statement either as a witness or as a suspect (witness under caution) while the actual questioning is most commonly conducted by the police or the Financial and Economic Crime Unit (which is an agency supervised by the Ministry of Finance and has powers similar to the police, such as conducting investigations, examining witnesses and performing on-site inspections).
If an individual is called as a witness, he or she appears before the authority that has received the Prosecutor’s Office’s order and gives a statement under oath. Persons called as witnesses to provide testimony must appear before the authority that conducts the investigation to answer questions. Witnesses have the right to avoid self-incrimination.
Individuals called as suspects have the right to request a copy of the case file and sufficient time to prepare for questioning. At this preliminary stage, suspects are also entitled to a defence attorney, who may be present during questioning, and to file written submissions in their defence.
In all cases where questioning of individuals as suspects is involved, relevant provisions of the CCP apply, namely the right to avoid self-incrimination, the right to an attorney, time to prepare one’s defence, the right to remain silent, and so on. The structure of the pretrial procedure is such that a suspect may have full representation by a defence attorney and full protection of his or her rights.
Whistleblowing and employee rights
29 Describe the whistleblowing framework in your country. What financial incentive schemes exist for whistleblowers? What legal protections are in place for whistleblowers?
Greece does not have systematic legislation protecting whistleblowers in either the public sector or the private sector, nor does it have any relevant financial incentive schemes. Whistleblowers may be considered as witnesses in the public interest, which results in complete protection from criminal prosecution with respect to offences such as disclosure of privileged information or filing a false complaint relating to the information the whistleblower provides to the authorities, according to Article 47 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
30 What rights does local employment law confer on employees whose conduct is within the scope of an investigation? Is there any distinction between officers and directors of the company for these purposes?
Local employment law does not grant special rights to employees who are under investigation, nor does it distinguish between officers and directors. Nevertheless, employees must be treated with respect, and the investigation should be conducted in accordance with data protection and labour laws.
31 Do employees’ rights under local employment law differ if a person is deemed to have engaged in misconduct? Are there disciplinary or other steps that a company must take when an employee is implicated or suspected of misconduct, such as suspension or in relation to compensation?
In cases of alleged serious misconduct, both employees and directors are usually notified in case the individual wishes to have counsel present at interviews; it is for the individual to decide on the presence of counsel.
A company’s policy in cases of individual liability will depend on the type of misconduct (negligent or deliberate), the seriousness of the actions and the position of the individual, among other things. It is customary for a company to collaborate with an individual’s counsel when the action occurred as a result of his or her position in the company (e.g., administrative proceedings or criminal proceedings against a managing director for an environmental offence).
Termination of an employee’s contract is something about which the company has to decide after reviewing the whole case and assessing possible consequences for the entity. If the employee has acted against the company’s best interests and the actions are the reason the government seeks to impose liability, the company may have no option but to terminate the contract to protect its interests, privileged information, and so on. In the end, it is a strategic decision for the company unless the particulars of the case leave no option other than to terminate the employment. This is especially the case when an employee is involved in large-scale or serious violations of duties, has deliberately acted against the company’s interests, or engaged in fraudulent activity against the company itself, its clients or the general public.
32 Can an employee be dismissed for refusing to participate in an internal investigation?
The obligation of an employee to participate in an internal investigation depends on the terms of the employment contract and the applicable law. Refusal to participate in internal proceedings could eventually lead to dismissal.
Commencing an internal investigation
33 Is it common practice in your country to prepare a document setting out terms of reference or investigatory scope before commencing an internal investigation? What issues would it cover?
No special statutory rules regulate internal investigations. Thus, the way in which internal investigations are conducted varies. Usually, the department of a company that is to conduct the investigation decides how to proceed.
34 If an issue comes to light prior to the authorities in your country becoming aware or engaged, what internal steps should a company take? Are there internal steps that a company is legally or ethically required to take?
There is no general rule or obligation for self-reporting. A series of legislative measures have been passed to enable enforcement agencies to detect misconduct with or without the co-operation of the companies. In this respect, accounting officers must report any suspicious activity (relating to tax evasion, money laundering and the like) if there are indications of misconduct.
However, there are special provisions in numerous laws and regulations that stipulate self-reporting of internal wrongdoing and cover most aspects of business activity. In some fields or industries, provisions for self-reporting are more stringent (e.g., banking and financial services), while in others there is no explicit provision for self-reporting (most commercial activities in the private sector); however, rules for reporting criminal acts to the authorities (as a general legal obligation) may apply and this might, to some extent, lead to some kind of self-reporting.
There are specific industries or fields in which self-reporting is a prerequisite to obtaining the benefit of leniency measures or for immunity provisions to apply in cases of violations of competition law, exposure of corrupt practices of public officials, organised crime and terrorism.
In any of these procedures, the authorities can choose to impose lesser penalties or grant complete immunity. These provisions may apply to corporate entities only, to individuals only, or to entities and individuals alike. Considering that, in the majority of cases involving serious corporate misconduct, the authorities may impose administrative penalties and measures affecting the company’s ability to continue and develop its activities, as a rule, participation in a leniency programme is considered the better option for a company and the implicated individuals.
Where leniency or immunity measures are provided for (e.g., cartel offences, corrupt practices or money laundering), the extent to which they apply depends on the type of information provided to the authorities. As a rule, effective and complete exposure of illegal practices may lead to lesser penalties or immunity from criminal prosecution or administrative sanctions. Immunity would usually be granted when the reporting of illegal practices is of such significance that it contributes substantially to the exposure of illegal activity or perpetrators.
35 What internal steps should a company in your country take if it receives a notice or subpoena from a law enforcement authority seeking the production or preservation of documents or data?
- Notify the legal department regarding the nature of the notice or subpoena and consult on how to proceed next.
- Retrieve any requested documents or data.
- Evaluate the possible implications from a criminal and an administrative perspective in relation to the requested documents or data.
- Decide whether and how to comply with the request.
36 At what point must a company in your country publicly disclose the existence of an internal investigation or contact from a law enforcement authority?
No general obligation is provided for by Greek law, but in certain fields (e.g., competition regulation), corporations are given motives for self-reporting through provisions for leniency or immunity programmes, or both. Listed companies must disclose relevant information to the public in accordance with the existing regulations.
37 How are internal investigations viewed by local enforcement bodies in your country?
Internal investigations are welcomed by the law authorities, when they are conducted in a manner that leads to direct gathering of evidence, preservation and referral of evidence to the authorities. However, the absence of a clear legal framework for regulating internal investigations poses complex issues in relation to the protection of affected individuals.
38 Can the attorney–client privilege be claimed over any aspects of internal investigations in your country? What steps should a company take in your country to protect the privilege or confidentiality of an internal investigation?
The attorney–client privilege may be asserted at any time. However, it is not always easy to determine what falls under this protection. Apart from the obvious privileged information (such as correspondence between an attorney and a client), there are other forms of communication (e.g., memos, drafts of letters or other documented material) that may contain privileged information.
The company is not expected to waive its rights or privileges (especially the attorney–client privilege) as part of its co-operation with the authorities. However, the company may choose to waive its rights in whole or in part with respect to such privileges if it becomes necessary for the purposes of its defence in regulatory or criminal procedures. For documents and material protected by special legislation (e.g., patents), the company is entitled to deny access, give limited access or request that the material be handled by the competent authorities in accordance with special legal provisions.
39 Set out the key principles or elements of the attorney–client privilege in your country as it relates to corporations. Who is the holder of the privilege? Are there any differences when the client is an individual?
The attorney–client privilege is considered to be of paramount importance and is well established in Greek legislation. Sources of this privilege are to be found in the Lawyer’s Code of Conduct, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Criminal Code and the Code of Civil Procedure. The attorney–client privilege is broad and covers any type of data (verbal, written, electronic, etc.) obtained from the client, regardless of whether the client is a natural or a legal person. The attorney–client privilege may be invoked even after the termination of the relationship between an attorney and a client.
40 Does the attorney–client privilege apply equally to in-house and external counsel in your country?
Yes. In Greek law there is no distinction between in-house and external counsel in this respect.
41 Does the attorney–client privilege apply equally to advice sought from foreign lawyers in relation to investigations in your country?
No. In principle, it applies to lawyers registered in Greece.
42 To what extent is waiver of the attorney–client privilege regarded as a co-operative step in your country? Are there any contexts where privilege waiver is mandatory or required?
Waiving the attorney–client privilege is not common practice in the legal system and is not provided for as a mandatory or required step in any context.
43 Does the concept of limited waiver of privilege exist as a concept in your jurisdiction? What is its scope?
When a company is requested by the authorities to produce privileged information (and has decided to comply with the request), it is common practice to provide limited information relating only to the scope of the request. However, no effective safeguards are in place as to how the information provided could be used by third parties, including other authorities and agencies.
44 If privilege has been waived on a limited basis in another country, can privilege be maintained in your own country?
Yes. Waiver of privilege is valid only when it is conducted according to the provisions of Greek law.
45 Do common interest privileges exist as concepts in your country? What are the requirements and scope?
There is no special rule regarding common interest privilege. It falls under the attorney–client privilege.
46 Can privilege be claimed over the assistance given by third parties to lawyers?
There is no explicit legal provision or relevant case law covering this matter. Privilege can be claimed regarding the documents in the lawyer’s possession. However, it is doubtful whether privilege would apply to communications between lawyers and third parties or in relation to documents in the possession of third parties.
47 Does your country permit the interviewing of witnesses as part of an internal investigation?
48 Can a company claim the attorney–client privilege over internal witness interviews or attorney reports?
49 When conducting a witness interview of an employee in your country, what legal or ethical requirements or guidance must be adhered to? Are there different requirements when interviewing third parties?
Currently there is no clear legal framework for regulating internal investigations. Therefore, witness interviews of employees must be conducted with respect and in accordance with data protection and labour laws. It should be noted that the obligation of an employee to be examined as a witness in the course of an internal investigation depends on the terms of the employment contract and the applicable law. Refusal to participate in internal proceedings could eventually lead to dismissal.
Third parties are not obliged to testify as witnesses in corporate internal proceedings.
50 How is an internal interview typically conducted in your country? Are documents put to the witness? May or must employees in your country have their own legal representation at the interview?
There is no established protocol for conducting internal interviews of witnesses. It is usually decided by the department within the company that is to conduct the investigation, which also decides on the strategy of the questioning and whether documents will be put to the witnesses. In cases of alleged serious misconduct, the employee is usually notified in case he or she wishes to have counsel present; it is for the employee to decide about the presence of counsel.
Reporting to the authorities
51 Are there circumstances under which reporting misconduct to law enforcement authorities is mandatory in your country?
A business may conduct its own internal investigation on any occasion. Whether the results should be shared with the authorities depends on the results and the nature of the case, since there is no general rule for self-reporting – with the exception of certain aspects of business activities usually relating to regulatory rather than criminal provisions.
52 In what circumstances might you advise a company to self-report to law enforcement even if it has no legal obligation to do so? In what circumstances would that advice to self-report extend to countries beyond your country?
If there is evidence of serious wrongdoing, the company may be left with no choice but to refer all gathered information to the authorities. It is important to keep in mind on all occasions that any report to the authorities by the company, especially in relation to its employees or clients, should be done carefully to avoid any possibility of it being held liable for filing false accusations. It is not expected, of course, that a case be presented to the authorities proven beyond any doubt, but care should be taken to forward information that indicates with some certainty that serious misconduct has taken place.
Self-reporting may extend to third countries, when there is favourable legislation regarding self-reporting from which the company could benefit (e.g., if the company could reach a leniency or immunity agreement under certain conditions).
53 What are the practical steps you need to take to self-report to law enforcement in your country?
The first step is to gather and secure all evidence regarding the alleged wrongdoing. Next, a detailed report should be drafted to explain, with some certainty, that serious misconduct has taken place. Finally, the report is filed with the Prosecutor’s Office or other competent authority.
Responding to the authorities
54 In practice, how does a company in your country respond to a notice or subpoena from a law enforcement authority? Is it possible to enter into dialogue with the authorities to address their concerns before or even after charges are brought? How?
In principle, a company must co-operate with the authorities, at least in terms of providing requested information and documentation. Failure to comply with such a request usually has no direct consequences (unless otherwise provided for by law) but may lead to an unfavourable report by the authorities or an on-site search and seizure to obtain the requested material.
In practice, a company’s attorney (in-house counsel or an independent attorney) liaises with the authorities and informs them whether or not the company will comply with the notice or subpoena, and requests additional information regarding the scope of the investigation and its purpose.
55 Are ongoing authority investigations subject to challenge before the courts?
Although it is not common, the validity of investigative actions, such as searches and seizures, may be challenged before the Judicial Council, according to the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP).
56 In the event that authorities in your country and one or more other countries issue separate notices or subpoenas regarding the same facts or allegations, how should the company approach this?
When multiple jurisdictions are involved, an international instrument or treaty may be applicable in the first instance. If the relevant jurisdictions are all EU Member States, EU law is applied; this is very similar to Greek law on the basic elements of procedure. If a bilateral or international treaty is in force (in relation to other countries), the provisions of the treaty are primarily applied. Treaties usually have specific provisions on how to handle privileged information or private data but, in some cases, Greece reserves the right to refuse to forward requested information if it is against Greek law, or may reserve the right to forward it, subject to approval from the competent authority (e.g., dealing with protection of private data).
In large-scale investigations involving more jurisdictions, all investigations are usually carried out locally in accordance with Greek law and regulations. Exceptions may apply in cases involving national security or relating to Greece’s diplomatic relations, in which case different rules (as set out in international or bilateral treaties) may apply.
A company can always notify the authorities in different jurisdictions of a current investigation in Greece, to avoid multiple prosecutions or sanctions and a potential breach of the ne bis in idem principle.
57 If a notice or subpoena from the authorities in your country seeks production of material relating to a particular matter that crosses borders, must the company search for, and produce material, in other countries to satisfy the request? What are the difficulties in that regard?
In principle, companies are not obliged by law to comply with requests from the authorities to produce evidence. However, it is advisable for companies to co-operate with the authorities, at least in terms of providing requested information and documentation, to avoid unfavourable reports by the authorities or an on-site search and seizure to obtain the requested material. Regarding the production of material located in other countries, a company must decide whether to comply with such requests, primarily by examining whether the production of the documents would violate foreign laws (such as personal data legislation, banking secrecy laws, privileged data, etc.). If a company does not comply with a request, the authorities could still issue a European Investigation Order (for investigation within the European Union) or file a mutual legal assistance request (for investigation within third countries) to seek the requested material, which then would be gathered in accordance with the legislation of the requesting state.
58 Does law enforcement in your country routinely share information or investigative materials with law enforcement in other countries? What framework is in place in your country for co-operation with foreign authorities?
Co-operation with other countries’ law enforcement or prosecutorial authorities has become common practice in large-scale investigations. Special law enforcement agencies, such as the Economic and Financial Crime Unit, have entered into agreements with foreign counterparts, which has enabled a faster and more efficient exchange of information. Agreements between agencies usually follow framework agreements or treaties between countries. In the case of Greece, most aspects of international co-operation are treaty-based.
In recent times, there has been a marked increase in the co-operation of special prosecuting and investigating task forces with the corresponding authorities in other countries (especially in Germany and Switzerland) by adopting more flexible and quicker procedures.
There are two sets of rules applicable to this prosecutorial co-operation, one of which applies to co-operation with EU Member States (in these cases, all procedures and functions are simplified and faster). In all other cases, provisions for mutual assistance apply (for investigating acts or requests for information).
Greece is a party to numerous international and European conventions and bilateral agreements covering all aspects of cross-border judicial co-operation, such as:
- the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (1959);
- the European Convention on the suppression of terrorism (1977);
- the Convention of the Council of Europe on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime (1990);
- the Convention of the Council of Europe against Corruption (1999);
- the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (2000);
- the UN Convention against Corruption (2003);
- the Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism (2005); and
- bilateral agreements with the United States, China, Poland, Mexico and other countries.
Greek courts co-operate with those of other EU Member States through the Eurojust agency.
59 Do law enforcement authorities in your country have any confidentiality obligations in relation to information received during an investigation or onward disclosure and use of that information by third parties?
Under the CCP, investigation proceedings are non-public; secrecy towards third parties and the public applies to all information gathered by the enforcement authorities. Only the person under investigation and the authorities have access to this information. Information gathered is not disclosed to third parties unless they have a specific legitimate interest to obtain the information, following special authorisation by the prosecuting authorities.
60 How would you advise a company that has received a request from a law enforcement authority in your country seeking documents from another country, where production would violate the laws of that other country?
The company should inform the Greek authorities that complying with such a request would be illegal under the laws of that third country. Thus, the Greek authorities would decide whether to obtain the evidence through official channels (such as filing a request for mutual assistance).
61 Does your country have secrecy or blocking statutes? What related issues arise from compliance with a notice or subpoena?
According to Article 212 of the CCP, information in the possession of clerics, lawyers, doctors, pharmacists and military diplomatic officials is considered privileged. If an individual under investigation declares that certain documents are privileged information pursuant to Article 212 of the CCP and the investigating authority contests this assertion, the confiscated documents are sealed, without the investigating authority acquiring knowledge of their content, and a request is submitted to the competent professional association to decide on the confidentiality of the documents.
This restriction does not apply if the person protected by privilege is under investigation as an accomplice to a criminal act.
In criminal proceedings, as opposed to administrative or tax proceedings, there is no general legal framework governing the co-operation of a private legal entity with the investigating authorities (except when explicitly stated by law). In this respect, companies are not obliged to carry out the investigating authorities’ requests to provide evidence, unless stated otherwise by law (e.g., telecommunications companies are obliged to provide data, when requested by a prosecutor or the investigating judge). However, ‘passive’ co-operation is expected when searches are conducted at the premises of companies; in other words, a company is not allowed actively to hinder searches conducted at its offices, such as by destroying evidence.
62 What are the risks in voluntary production versus compelled production of material to authorities in your country? Is this material discoverable by third parties? Is there any confidentiality attached to productions to law enforcement in your country?
As a general rule, material requested by the prosecuting authorities during the process of a criminal investigation must be produced. If part of this material contains privileged information, there are procedures under the CCP for handling this information accordingly. Most privileges do not apply in investigations into corruption. The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor, the Financial Crime Prosecutor and certain agencies, such as the Economic and Financial Crime Unit, may have full access to most of the privileged information. Production of material by third parties is also taken into consideration if they have legal access to it and it is not gathered or accessed through violation of criminal provisions (e.g., illegal recording of conversations or illegal access to personal data).
Prosecution and penalties
63 What types of penalties may companies or their directors, officers or employees face for misconduct in your country?
Depending on the nature of the misconduct, a broad variety of administrative sanctions may be imposed against a company, such as fines, licence revocation, a permanent or temporary ban from public tenders or state funding, or a temporary suspension of business operations.
Individuals may face criminal penalties (which may include imprisonment and monetary penalties) if they are found guilty of a criminal offence.
It should be noted that crimes relating to an entity may be committed by members of the entity (usually managers, officers and directors). These individuals are personally liable in any case, but they cannot be held liable for criminal acts ‘committed’ by the entity if they do not meet the criteria (objective and subjective) of the relevant legal provision. For some types of offences (e.g., relating to tax matters), there are special provisions as to which persons are deemed liable under the relevant law. These legal provisions may expand or restrict liability to individuals holding certain positions within an entity.
64 Where there is a risk of a corporate’s suspension, debarment or other restrictions on continuing business in your country, what options or restrictions apply to a corporate wanting to settle in another country?
Suspension and debarment of a company from government contracts in Greece is an administrative penalty that can be found in various laws:
- Under Article 45 of Law 4557/2018 regarding money laundering, failure to comply with the Law’s anti-money laundering provisions may lead to the corporation being prohibited from carrying out certain activities, establishing new branches in Greece or abroad, or increasing its share capital. In the case of serious or repeated violations, failure to comply may result in final or provisional withdrawal or suspension of authorisation of the corporation for a specific time or prohibition from carrying out its business.
- Under Article 28, paragraph 5 of Law 1650/1986 (as amended by Article 7, paragraph 4 of Law 4042/2012) regarding the protection of the environment, a company may be banned temporarily or permanently from public tenders if it is found liable for polluting or degrading the environment to gain illicit profits.
- Under Article 24 of Law 3340/2005 for the protection of the capital market from actions of persons that possess inside information and market manipulation, the activities of a company found to be violating the provisions of this Law may be suspended.
A company should primarily examine whether the intended settlement in another country concerns facts that have taken place in Greece and evaluate the risk of that settlement being used in future proceedings in Greece.
65 What do the authorities in your country take into account when fixing penalties?
When imposing sanctions (in the form of administrative penalties) on a corporation, the competent authorities consider the following factors: entity size and annual turnover, seriousness of the offence, the damage caused, the amount by which the company benefited from the conduct and prior misconduct. The fine is imposed by the relevant competent authority (usually the Revenue Service). Apart from a fine, the competent authority may impose additional measures, such as prohibition of business activity for a specified period, revocation of licences and registrations, or a ban from public tenders or investment programmes, among other things. Judicial control of sanctions is always available to affected parties.
Resolution and settlements short of trial
66 Are non-prosecution agreements or deferred prosecution agreements available in your jurisdiction for corporations?
No. However, alternative forms for the resolution of criminal cases involving individuals are provided for in the Code of Criminal Procedure.
67 Does your jurisdiction provide for reporting restrictions or anonymity for corporates that have entered into non-prosecution agreements or deferred prosecution agreements until the conclusion of criminal proceedings in relation to connected individuals to ensure fairness in those proceedings?
68 Prior to any settlement with a law enforcement authority in your country, what considerations should companies be aware of?
Prior to any settlement with a law enforcement authority, a company should consider whether the settlement agreement could be used as evidence against individuals (i.e., directors or employees of the company) or even against the company itself in any type of proceeding (criminal, administrative or civil). Also, the company should thoroughly negotiate with the authorities regarding the wording of the settlement agreement to avoid any indirect admission of wrongdoing that is not covered by that agreement.
69 To what extent do law enforcement authorities in your country use external corporate compliance monitors as an enforcement tool?
Regulatory agencies (such as the Competition Commission, the Capital Market Commission and the Greek Gaming Commission) monitor the adherence of corporate entities to standards set by the relevant legal provisions in respect of matters within their competence. In the event of breaches, these agencies have the powers to impose administrative penalties and to forward their findings to the Prosecutor’s Office for a criminal investigation to be initiated.
70 Are parallel private actions allowed? May private plaintiffs gain access to the authorities’ files?
Yes, private actions seeking damages in the course of civil proceedings are allowed. Private plaintiffs may gain access to authorities’ files, provided they can adequately prove their legitimate interest in obtaining the files to support their civil claims against the company.
Publicity and reputational issues
71 Outline the law in your country surrounding publicity of criminal cases at the investigatory stage and once a case is before a court.
Under Article 241 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP), the pretrial stage of proceedings, which includes the preliminary inquiry and the main investigation, is conducted in secrecy, not publicly. However, in highly publicised cases, it is not unusual that information (including, inter alia, documentary evidence and witness statements) is leaked to the media during the investigation phase.
After a case has been referred for trial, all procedures, including the trial hearing, are, as a rule, in the public domain (CCP, Article 329).
72 What steps do you take to manage corporate communications in your country? Is it common for companies to use a public relations firm to manage a corporate crisis in your country?
There is no standard corporate communication protocol in Greece, thus companies would usually follow the international standards regarding communications in crisis management. However, it is common for companies to have their own public communications and media department. In some cases, companies also use public relations firms to help manage a corporate crisis.
73 How is publicity managed when there are ongoing related proceedings?
Companies decide on how to manage publicity case by case. Crucial factors that help to develop a company’s strategy are the nature of the proceedings and the company’s involvement regarding the facts under investigation and the investigated persons.
Duty to the market
74 Is disclosure to the market in circumstances where a settlement has been agreed but not yet made public mandatory?
No, but it may be advisable in some circumstances.
Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG)
75 Does your country regulate ESG matters?
Each ESG area is regulated by its respective laws. In particular, environmental matters are regulated by Law 1650/1986 regarding the protection of the environment; social matters are primarily governed by labour law provisions; and corporate governance is regulated by Law 4706/2020.
76 Do you expect to see any key regulatory or legislative changes emerge in the next year or so designed to address ESG matters?
No fundamental changes are expected.
77 Has there been an increase in ESG-related litigation, investigations or enforcement activity in recent years in your country?
78 Do you expect to see any key regulatory or legislative changes emerge in the next year or so designed to address corporate misconduct?
No fundamental changes are expected.
1 Ilias Anagnostopoulos, Jerina Zapanti and Alexandros Tsagkalidis are members of Anagnostopoulos.