By Christos ILIOPOULOS*
Banks in Greece the last few years have been applying considerably more strict rules with regard to keeping updated and accurate records of the identity and of the personal data of their clients. The financial institutions feel the pressure of the regulating authorities (the Bank of Greece, Ministry of Finance, the institutions of the European Union.), to clean up their act not only regarding the thousands of “red” loans which are not being serviced, but also with regard to more transparency in banking transactions.
As a result, opening a bank account in Greece requires the proper identification of the client and meticulous recording of his/her personal data, meaning address, phone number, profession, tax status etc. If the person who wants to open a new account or update an existing one is a foreign resident, the bank will request a number of supporting documents as evidence of the personal data of the client.
These documents are the Greek id card or Greek or foreign passport of the client, a copy of the client’s recent telephone bill to confirm his/her address and telephone number, a copy of a recent electricity bill to double check the client’s address, and a copy of the last tax assessment or tax records from the country where the client is a permanent tax resident. The bank in Greece is not interested in the income of the foreign resident, but wants to be certain about the fact that this person is a foreign tax resident and of which country in particular. Another document the bank wants for the opening or for the update of a bank account is proof of the client’s profession. This is provided either with a letter from the company or agency where the client works, stating that this person works for this company or authority, or a copy of the client’s professional identity card or proof of membership to any professional chamber. If the client is retired, proof of profession many not be needed.
The client must file the above documents in person at the bank in Greece. The bank will take a sample of the new client’s signature, if the matter at hand is the opening of a new account. If the issue is the update or re-activation of a previously existing account, the bank will require all the above documents filed in person by the client, in order to obtain fresh and accurate information about the client’s profile, in case the bank wants to audit anything regarding this client’s banking activity.
Alternatively, the opening or update of an account can be done with a power of attorney (POA), which the client signs at the Greek Consulate at the country of his residence or at a notary public with either the Apostille stamp or certification by the Greek Consulate (if the country of his residence has not ratified the Hague Convention for the Apostille). The text of the POA must be very detailed and accurate and for this reason it must be prepared by an attorney in Greece, who will have first discussed in detail with the client and then will have agreed with the bank regarding the bank’s demands. The opening of the bank account will, however, require, even at a
later point, the physical presence of the client in Greece, to give the sample of his signature, while the update of the account can be done exclusively with the POA.
Finally, if the new client of the bank is to wire significant funds to Greece from abroad, the Greek bank will require written evidence from the foreign banks showing that these funds have either been acquired recently by the disposition of an asset of the client, or that the funds had been in the client’s foreign bank account for a minimum period of time.
. *Christos ILIOPOULOS, attorney at
the Supreme Court of Greece , LL.M.