Tax officers slapped with 70-year jail term for graft

A group of seven retired and active tax officers, four of which are high-ranking administrators, was handed a total of 70 years in prison by an Athens court over charges of embezzling the state of up to 28 million euros, according to a report in Sunday's edition of the Ethnos daily. The seven suspects were, however, granted conditional release pending appeal.

The case of the seven unnamed suspects came before the three-judge court following an investigation by financial crimes prosecutor Grigoris Peponis launched in January into whether their ownership of large real-estate holdings and their participation in off-shore companies was legal or the product of embezzlement and graft.

According to the Ethnos report, the seven tax officials first came under suspicion in 2001 after a retired inspector, Aliki Kyriakaki, made claims that she had come under pressure from certain members of the group to reduce tax fines against a large company that she had been auditing and found to have arrears of 36 million euros.

Among other forms of pressure to play along with the scheme, Kyriakaki faced multiple disciplinary actions brought against her by members of the group, which offered debt write-offs to businesses in exchange for cash. She was subsequently cleared of all charges by an administrative court, after refusing to work with members of the group and bringing their activities to light.

Kyriakaki filed a suit in 2001 against «all responsible parties» in the graft ring, which led to the seven tax officials being charged with embezzling a total of 28 million euros from the state in tax write-offs.

The seven suspects were twice exonerated by an appeals court before the case was reopened by the Supreme Court on the findings of Peponis's investigation.

According to the Ethnos report, the group used the graft money to buy luxurious villas in Attica and a hotel on the island of Skopelos, as well as to open off-shore companies.

Speaking to Ethnos, Kyriakaki said «it took 11 years of fighting, and I am not about to stop here,» as her lawyer suggested that there more charges will be investigated in connection to the embezzlement ring.

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