General context and principles
1 Identify the highest-profile corporate investigation under way in your country, describing and commenting on its most noteworthy aspects as it relates to your country.
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/De Puy, HDW/Ferrostaal, 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 others.
Corporate conduct may be punishable in certain cases. Usually (e.g., in the context of anti-corruption, anti-money laundering and anti-cartel legislation) company conduct is 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, as well as the annual turnover of the company.
3 In your country, what law enforcement authorities regulate corporations? How is jurisdiction between the authorities allocated? Do the authorities have policies relating to the prosecution of corporations?
The responsibility for the investigation of corporate conduct lies with regulatory and prosecuting authorities (depending on the subject of investigation) but the responsibility for criminal prosecution of corporate conduct always lies with the Prosecutor’s Office (the Prosecutor). 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 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.
The Prosecutor opens a case against the natural person or officers of an entity, following standard criminal procedure, namely conducting a preliminary investigation, filing charges and 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 to take action to secure evidence (by issuing a warrant for search and seizure or issuing freezing orders) 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 actions of individuals held liable for criminal acts from which the companies have benefited.
4 What grounds must the authorities in your country have to initiate an investigation? Is a certain threshold of suspicion necessary to trigger an investigation?
A preliminary investigation is initiated by the Prosecutor 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 by another authority, or even information that has come to the knowledge of the Prosecutor 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 inquiry and submit a request to the Prosecutor for further investigation. All preliminary investigations, apart from regular tax reviews, are supervised by the Prosecutor.
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 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 country?
The rules of 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 indirectly applied (through examination of individual criminal liability) but this is a disputed matter.
6 Does criminal law have general extraterritorial effect in your country? To the extent that extraterritorial effect is limited to specific offences, describe those which have extraterritorial effect, the statutory basis and any conditions that must be met for extraterritoriality to apply.
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.
7 Describe the principal challenges in your country that arise in cross-border investigations, and explain whether and how such challenges are dependent on 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 SDOE, have entered into agreements with similar agencies in other countries, which has enabled a more efficient and faster 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.
8 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).
9 Do your country’s law enforcement authorities have regard to corporate culture in assessing a company’s liability for misconduct?
Because criminal investigations are opened into individuals, there is no standard as to how the authorities address corporate practices. They are taken into account, though, as the background against which the alleged misconduct has taken place and at the stage of imposing sanctions.
10 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 have been amended three times in the past five years to conform with international instruments. Greece has ratified all major EU and international conventions and has passed internal legislation to comply with them. On the other hand, 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.
11 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.
Before an internal investigation
12 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 (officially or unofficially) related information from a number of sources, including whistleblowers. Self-reporting by companies is still rather unusual.
13 Does your country have a data protection regime?
- Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 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 – which came into effect in May 2018. Legislation is currently being drafted to implement the 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 Hellenic Data Protection Authority (HDPA).
14 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.
15 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 conflicting with the company’s interests. On the other hand, the company, as an employer, must respect and protect sensitive personal information about its employees and any personal communication. It is common practice, also recognised by the Greek courts, for the employer to have access to the 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.
16 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 the company has if those limits are exceeded.
In the majority of cases, the authorities will send a written request to a company to forward 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 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 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, among 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.
17 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 company premises, the company may declare that certain documents are privileged information pursuant to Article 212 of the CCP. If the investigating authority contests this assertion, it confiscates the documents, seals them without acquiring knowledge of their content and requests 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 the criminal act. Personal documents of employees are protected to a certain extent, depending on the specifics of the case.
18 Are there any privileges in your country that would prevent an individual or company from providing testimony? Under what circumstances may an individual’s testimony be compelled in your country? What consequences flow in your country from such compelled testimony?
All authorities with the power to conduct investigations in their field (e.g., the Prosecutor, the police, the Financial and Economic Crime Unit, the Capital Market Commission) may request that individuals give statements following an order by the Prosecutor or in accordance with specific legal provisions. In cases of serious business crimes, the Prosecutor 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 order and gives a statement under oath. Persons called as witnesses to provide testimony must appear before the authority that conducts the investigation, and answer the questions. Witnesses have the right to avoid self-incrimination.
Individuals called as suspects have the right to request copies 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 Greek Code of Criminal Procedure 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 (articles 100 to 104, 240 and 241 of the CCP). The structure of pretrial procedure is such that a suspect may have full representation by a defence attorney and full protection of his or her rights.
19 What legal protections are in place for whistleblowers in your country?
Greece does not have a systematic legislation protecting whistleblowers in either the public or the private sector. 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 45B of the CCP.
20 What rights do employees possess under local employment law that determine how they are treated within a company if their conduct is within the scope of an investigation? What employment rights would attach if they are deemed to have engaged in misconduct? Does it differ for officers and directors of the company?
Local employment law does not grant special rights to employees under investigation. Nevertheless, employees must be treated with respect, and the investigation should be conducted in accordance with data protection and labour laws. In cases of alleged serious misconduct, the employee is usually notified in case he or she wishes to have counsel present at interviews; it is for the employee to decide on the presence of counsel.
The same applies for the directors of the company.
21 Are there disciplinary or other steps that a company must take in your country when an employee is implicated or suspected of misconduct, such as suspension or in relation to compensation? Can an employee be dismissed for refusing to participate in an internal investigation?
The company’s policy in cases of individual liability depends on the type of misconduct (negligent or deliberate), the seriousness of the actions, the position of the individual, among others. It is customary for a company to coordinate with the 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 that 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.
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
22 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?
As previously mentioned, no special statutory rules regulate internal investigations. Thus, the way an internal investigation is conducted varies. Usually, the department of a company that is to conduct the investigation decides how to proceed.
23 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 (related 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 a 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.
24 At what point must a company in your country publicly disclose the existence of an internal investigation or contact from law enforcement?
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 following the existing regulations.
25 When would management typically brief the board of a company in your country about an internal investigation or contact from law enforcement officials?
It varies depending on each company’s by-laws and internal procedures.
26 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 as well as an administrative perspective in relation to the requested documents or data.
- Decide whether and how to comply with the request.
27 How can the lawfulness or scope of a notice or subpoena from a law enforcement authority be challenged in your country?
The prosecutor or the investigating judge who supervises the investigation should be informed regarding the objections raised against a notice or subpoena. Also, if there is a disagreement between the defendant and the prosecutor or the investigating judge regarding the above-mentioned matters, the validity or lawfulness of a notice or subpoena could be challenged before the Judicial Council, according to the provisions of the CCP.
28 May 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?
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.
29 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?
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 CCP, the Criminal Code and the Code of Civil Procedure. 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 legal person. Attorney–client privilege may be invoked even after the termination of the relationship between an attorney and a client.
30 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.
31 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.
32 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.
33 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.
34 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.
35 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.
36 Does your country permit the interviewing of witnesses as part of an internal investigation?
37 Can the attorney–client privilege be claimed over internal witness interviews or attorney reports in your country?
38 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?
See questions 11 and 20. Third parties are not obliged to testify as witnesses in corporate internal proceedings.
39 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. 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 on the presence of counsel.
Reporting to the authorities
40 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 related to regulatory rather than criminal provisions.
41 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).
42 What are the practical steps you need to take to self-report to law enforcement in your country?
- Gather and secure all evidence regarding the alleged wrongdoing.
- Draft a detailed report explaining, with some certainty, that serious misconduct has taken place.
- File the report with the Prosecutor or other competent authority.
Responding to the authorities
43 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, the 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.
44 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 CCP.
45 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 private data protection).
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.
46 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?
See question 45.
47 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 SDOE, have entered into agreements with foreign counterparts, which has enabled a more efficient and rapid 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 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 Convention of the Council of Europe on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime (1990);
- 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);
- the European Convention on the suppression of terrorism (1977); 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.
48 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 Greek Code of Criminal Procedure, investigation proceedings are confidential, and this confidentiality 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 such information, following special authorisation by the prosecuting authorities.
49 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).
50 Does your country have blocking statutes? What related issues are implicated by complying 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 documents confiscated are sealed, without the latter acquiring knowledge of their content, and a request is submitted to the competent professional association to decide on the confidentiality of said documents.
This restriction does not apply if the person protected by privilege is under investigation as an accomplice to a criminal act.
Data protection statutes (Law 2472/1997) are not applicable in criminal proceedings.
51 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 conduct 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 SDOE, 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 information).
52 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 (i.e., criminal, administrative or civil). Also, the company should thoroughly negotiate with the authorities the wording of the settlement agreement to avoid any indirect admission of wrongdoing that is not covered by said agreement.
53 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 temporary suspension of the business operations of the company.
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 related to an entity may be committed by members of the entity, mainly managers, officers and directors. These individuals are personally liable in any case, but they can not 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., tax offences), 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.
54 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, 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, a ban from public tenders or investment programmes, etc. Judicial control of sanctions is always available to affected parties.
55 Are non-prosecution agreements or deferred prosecution agreements available in your jurisdiction for corporations?
56 Is there a regime for suspension and debarment from government contracts in your country? Where there is a risk of suspension or debarment or other restrictions on continuing business in your country, what are the options available 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:
- According to article 45 of Law 4557/2018 regarding money laundering, failure to comply with the anti-money laundering provisions under said Law 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.
- According to 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 in order to gain illicit profits.
- According to 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 said Law may be suspended.
The 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.
57 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. Such settlements do not cover the criminal liability of individuals, such as directors or employees of the company.
58 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 that they can adequately prove their legitimate interest in obtaining the files to support their civil claims against the company.
Publicity and reputational issues
59 Outline the law in your country surrounding publicity of criminal cases at the investigatory stage and once a case is before a court.
According to article 241 of the CCP, the pretrial stage of the 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, 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, according to article 329 of the CCP.
60 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 manage a corporate crisis.
61 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
62 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.
Ilias G Anagnostopoulos, Jerina Zapanti and Alexandros Tsagkalidis are members of Anagnostopoulos.