Jyothi Kanics---Global Survival Network (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tue, 10 Nov 1998 15:18:51 -0800 (PST)
Greek Police Face Corruption Probe
By Derel Gatopoulos, November 6, 1998
ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Late one night last summer, a public prosecutor
seized police documents without requesting government permission. In a
country where for years the police had been considered untouchable, the
July action by prosecutor Giorgos Gerakis rippled through the ranks and
appears to reach higher with each new development.
Gerakis was looking for evidence that police were involved in nightclub
protection rackets and the lucrative trade of selling residence permits to
illegal aliens, including prostitutes and wanted foreign criminals.
Coming from the usually insular and conservative judiciary, Gerakis'
investigation was a sign that police complacency and the state's inability
to control a rapidly changing society could no longer be tolerated.
Earlier this week, the first indictments brought charges of corruption and
abuse of power against 16 people, including a former chief of the Greek
police and a senior aide to former Public Order Minister Giorgos Romaios.
Public outcry over police scandals also cost Romaios his job a week ago,
when he was one of two ministers fired.
In addition, Gerakis' unprecedented actions have colored the transformation
that Greece itself has undergone in the past decade, from a secluded
European Union country of 10.2 million to one facing unfamiliar and wide
ranging societal stresses.
A country that once provided hundreds of thousands of emigrants to the
world now hosts more than 500,000 illegal immigrants. Pouring into Greece
following the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union,
the immigrants fed criminal and prostitution rackets.
With the government now trying to register and legalize illegal immigrants,
there have been reports that the process has in turn given rise to more
corruption, with bribery networks springing up to facilitate the paperwork.
"Corruption goes all the way through the police force, from the very top to
the very bottom," said Makis Triandafilopoulos, the mild mannered host of a
corruption-busting television program called Yellow Press.
Triandafilopoulos' investigation and public airing of alleged police
corruption helped provide Gerakis with some of the ammunition he needed to
investigate the rumored criminal networks.
By the time Gerakis' investigation led to the first indictments, the police
were already reeling from a string of foul-ups and botched operations.
They included a hostage drama that resulted in the deaths of a fugitive and
the woman he held captive and the shooting of a Yugoslav high school
student mistaken for a purse snatcher. Triandafilopoulos said he thinks
this week's charges against the police are only the beginning.
Burgeoning prostitution outfits are thought to be among the biggest rackets
involving illegal immigrants in Greece.
Prostitution is legal, but highly regulated. Prostitutes must register with
police, have regularly updated health certificates and pay taxes.
Triandafilopoulos argues that some of the alleged rackets begin abroad and
end in many of the illegal brothels operating in Greece. "We believe the
operation starts with the (Greek) consulates in Eastern Europe and the
former Soviet Union who issued the visas," he said. "This was continued by
the Public Order Ministry, which received these people and furnished them
with residence papers.
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