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Mind the Gap: The essential and often neglected differences in Court evidence between the US and European legal systems By Constantine Kokkinos, MDI, Attorney at Law

Unlike the US judicial system, EU (civil law countries and, to some extent, the UK) jurisdictions limit the disclosure of evidence to what is offered by the parties as evidence (in support of the case and, to be exhibited at trial)[1]. According to Article 29 of the EU Data Protection Working Party, it is up to the parties to the litigation to offer evidence in support of its case. The court conducts the discovery process, which is subject to a much narrower scope, and one party to a litigation has a very limited ability to require the other party to disclose broad categories of evidence. In EU civil law jurisdictions there is no concept of pretrial discovery and the type of evidence that is offered at trial is much more restricted and specified to the scope of the trial.

Only under the following circumstances can the court, on application of either party, may order the taking of evidence prior to the commencement of the trial:

  • In cases of imminent danger, where loss or destruction of a means of proof is involved, for example, in cases where the witness testimony is deemed to be necessary for the outcome of the litigation, the court may order the examination of the witness prior to trial if the attendance of the witness at the hearing is impossible for some compelling reason (for example, absence or illness);
  • When it is deemed necessary that an object should be examined in its present state. Thus, in an action arising out of a breach of a sales contract due to the deterioration of goods, the court, in order to assess the damages, may order the examination of the deteriorated goods prior to trial, since the goods in question should be examined in their present state; and
  • When the parties agree to call evidence before trial[2].

[1] Karin Retzer and Michael Miller, "Mind the Gap: U.S. Discovery Demands versus E.U. Data Protection", Privacy & Security Law Report, 10 PVLR 886, 06/13/2011.

[2] Nikos Frangakis, Nassia Kazantzi and Hara Saounatso, "Greece: Establishing Jurisdiction", November 1996.

Lehman brothers structured notes: It is finally moving!

Legal proceedings against Citibank were launched in Belgium on early December. About 1.500 clients arrived to hear how they could recoup the money they saw go up in smoke when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt in September 2008. According to Citibank about 4.000 of its clients in Belgium were concerned for investing their hard-earned savings in structured notes issued by Lehman Brothers.

This should prove whether Citibank was guilty of the misuse of confidentiality and violation of the prospectus act when it sold the fourteen Lehman Brothers products. Civil proceedings are scheduled to last until end of January 2010 whereas on April 2010 debates and hearings before the public ministry will commence. Among them is Jean-Paul Servais, chairman of the financial watchdog CBFA, who is currently investigating the case according to the Belgian Flamish daily newspaper De Standaard.

Taxation in Greece: Emergency new measures

The Greek external debt naming it Eurozone's weak, link the Greek government has taken drastic steps for getting the issue under control as of early January 2010. On the 8th of January 2010 the government has announced increased taxation on some types of real estate property transfer through an unusual and for many controversial retroactive tax disposal. Retirement age has been prolonged and higher taxes have been announced on alcohol, cigarettes and services. In addition tax receipts incentives are in sight for tuckling the black market economy, though these seem still unclear and difficult to implement. Whatever the outcome is, it seems that 2010 will be a tough year for Greece and for the Greeks used on spending way beyond their means and productivity. A team of specialists follows closely on our behalf the new tax regime and measures as they are being announced so that we will be able to support optimized and fully compliant solutions in view of this rough as it seems new year 2010. To be noted though that, as bad as it is the Greek debt, it is smaller than the one of the U.K. and that the country is in no worst position regarding its public finances than other Eurozone countries such as Italy, Ireland or Spain.

New Swiss tax and financial operation tools

The whole world seems to be in need of more money and everyday there are lots of signs that the recovery is not there yet. What a better target on these hard days than Switzerland which is estimated to hold a 25% of the world’s deposited assets on its banks. Through an array of measures countries such as the US, France, Germany and Italy are trying to convince their citizens to repatriate their funds from the Helvetic stability heavens. Through a sophisticated and reliable legal and banking system the Swiss finance place remains one of world’s most attractive and its newly negotiated double taxation agreements and other elaborated instruments such as Holding and new limited liability companies allow interesting and fully compliant schemes to cover many international situations. ELC’s Swiss partner lawyers are constantly up to date and ready to review and assist on the implementation of such sophisticated tools in full compliance with the latest legal requirements.

Artistic LEICA photography support

Our Law firm’s philosophy is quite simple and straight forward: Attention to the details, and broadening horizons not only on new market opportunities but also in expanding on lifestyle quality beyond mere legal and financial sectors. This year in 2010 we have decided to support and assist artistic LEICA photography through promising and established photographers. We are now proud to host a presentation of the landscape works of Vassilis Mylonas a sample of which you may review through this link.

Α country in an emergency restructuring

The turmoil of public finances in Greece has revealed many weaknesses in the system requiring immediate addressing and handling. Thus operations of all major public sectors have been reshuffled and redefined. Same applies to public and by extension also to corporate finance and taxation. New rules and regulations apply many of them with immediate effect on vital sectors such as labor law, pension schemes, State and private funding, and taxation rules. We monitor closely the situation and we are constantly synchronizing our databases so that we can continue to offer completed and fully updated clients alike.

Mergers and acquisitions

Mergers and acquisitions

Business opportunities arise as several businesses are being entering into new schemes thus offering a much needed consolidation into the fragmented Greek market. After the announced merger of Olympic Air with Aegean airlines to be effective as of this fall, on July,15,2010 came from PIRAEUS Bank the first consolidation offer in the banking/financial sector for the acquisition of the Hellenic PostBank and of the Agricultural bank. There is certainly much to follow on various levels, schemes and sizes on a trend that seems to grow after considerable delay. It is much anticipated that the antiquated legal frame will also follow with more straight forwarded and simplified procedures.

World's best score on lehman settlement

Our Law firm has pioneered the civil claims over Lehman structured products sold by various banks in the country. Almost one and a half year following the Lehman disaster, and several lawsuits filed by our firm in Greece, our clients have good reasons to be pleased with our performance: An agreement has been reached for an out of Court settlement with Citibank where our clients will be selling their Lehman titles they bought through Citibank to a bank's subsidiary at an agreed 70% of the initial titles value. This is the highest worldwide purchase price convened by the bank.

National Archaeological museum: Eretria exposition

It is with great pleasure that our Law firm is sponsoring a major event at the National Archeological museum. The first complete exposition on Eretria is being presented by the Swiss School of Archeology which is doing on site excavations and has gathered an invaluable material over the years. The Swiss school of Archeology is one of the few foreign archeological schools operating in Greece for over 50 years presided by the former Swiss Federal President Pascal Couchepin. Constantin Kokkinos is also a member of the Consultative committee of this foundation.

Other cultural engagements

Other cultural engagements

Evi Routoula our long term associate –and supreme Court ranked- attorney at Law is also translating into Greek fine English literature. She has recently published in Greece two novels by Jennifer Lash an established writer and the mother of the Fiennes brothers, both well known actors from the movies “Shakespeare in Love” and "The English patient" . At a successful cultural evening at the Swiss Community House in Athens Evi and the author’s daughter and film producer Martha Fiennes flown for the event, have presented the books to the Greek public and received many positive reactions and commentaries.

Our Law Office has also been active into other causes: We are glad to actively support the photography exposition of the ELPIDA foundation for the physically disabled children which is taking place at the ANAPLASI rehabilitation centre and clinic. All income from the exposition will be disposed to severely handicapped and disabled children.