Spain threatens to block bailout if Greece does not grant immunity to EU officials

Eurogroup of finance ministers may block an €8.5-billion loan to Greece if it does not grant immunity from prosecution to privatisation agency officials from Spain, Italy and Slovakia. 

In 2015, a Greek prosecutor charged six officials at the country’s privatisation agency, three Greek nationals and three others appointed by the European Commission,  with embezzlement for withholding interest payments and breach of duty in relation to a sale and lease-back deal of 28 state-owned buildings.

According to prosecutor, the Greek state suffered losses totaling €575,856,504.

The case referred to two auctions of state owned buildings  The contracts were signed in May 2014 and the Greek state had to lease the properties back for twenty years in order to cover housing needs for public services.

Prosecutors also pointed out that in some cases, the “fair value of property” was underestimated , thus reducing the amount of money received by the state and that “the value of land was not considered as well as other factors of the real estate market.

The six  denied the accusations, claiming that their role was merely advisory and not binding for the board of HRADF that had the final say.

The case is still pending

The trio of EU officials – one Italian, one Spaniard and one Slovakian national – are accused of withholding interest payments and breach of duty in relation to a sale and lease-back deal of 28 state-owned buildings in Greece, resulting in multi-million euro losses.

Under Greek law, any losses in excess of €150,000 will result in criminal proceedings.

Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos has made clear his  view on the matter, warning Spain could block the next instalment of the bailout.

He said: “If there is no solution for these gentlemen, the Eurogroup will block the payment.”

Mr Guindos added that the decision to block would most likely be supported by other Eurogroup members, insisting: “It was a decision of the Eurogroup. If these people are not cleared, the payment will not occur.”

A Greek government source quoted by the AFP new agency said: “We will find a solution on time, we will do everything possible within the limits of the rule of law and respect for judicial authorities.”

European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said he was confident the problem would be resolved and he would continue to discuss the issue with Spain during his visit to Madrid next week.

He said: ”The problem has to be solved. We should not over dramatise it. The disbursement will happen and at the same time will find a solution to this problem.”

The comments come as the Greek government approached the state attorney to request the case against the council of experts be dismissed, and even approved in 2016 a law to guarantee the immunity of foreign experts working with the Greek Government.