Thousands of dead Greeks drew pensions – minister

ATHENS, June 6 (Reuters) – Thousands of Greeks have been receiving pensions despite being long dead, the Labour Minister said on Monday, promising to crack down on social security fraud costing the debt-laden country millions each year.

Minister Louka Katseli also said authorities were investigating whether a suspiciously high number of people aged over 100, still drawing their pensions, were actually alive.

Data crosschecks had revealed that about 4,500 deceased civil servants have continued getting their pension cheques, burdening taxpayers with more than 16 million euros ($23 million) each year, Katseli told daily Ta Nea in an interview.

Greek authorities keep poor records and citizens often fail to declare the deaths of relatives to continue cashing in their pensions.

The government is now setting its sights on the 9,000 centenarians still drawing pensions in the country. “We are currently checking how many of them are alive,” Katseli said.

Speaking to Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper, the head of a business lobby in Germany’s ruling CDU party said the pension fraud was “proof of the need to examine every last inch of Greece’s finances, before even one cent (in aid) is provided.”

 

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“European finance ministers would be well advised not to leave the examinations solely in the hands of the Greeks,” said Kurt Lauk, president of the CDU Economic Council.

Greece’s Labour Ministry alone has pledged to cut spending by about 8 billion euros in 2012-2015, one of several conditions the country must meet to continue receiving bailout funds from the European Union and IMF.

Cracking down on fraud and better means-testing could help Greece to meet much of this target without cutting benefits. “Fiscal consolidation without social cost is feasible, provided there is will, persistence and efficiency.” (Reporting by Harry Papachristou, additional reporting by Christiaan Hetzner in Berlin; editing by David Stamp)