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Cash-strapped Greece paid pensions to the dead

media Greek workers demonstrate against pension reform Reuters

Greece has been paying pensions to hundreds of dead people for many years, the government revealed Wednesday. Ministers uncovered the waste as part of an austerity drive which aims to cut a public deficit which plunged the country into crisis earlier this year.

Of 500 pensioners registered as being over 110 years old, 300 were actually dead, official figures show.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

“We found one pension was paid to a person who died in 1999,” deputy labour minister George Koutroumanis told a press conference. “We found people drawing a pension though they died five to seven years ago.”

Although there are widespread stories of corruption, including people not registering deaths so as to keep receiving pensions, some of the cash was paid into accounts but never withdrawn, Koutroumanis said.

The government has undertaken to bring the register up to date and take cheaters to court. Combined with efforts to root out bogus invalidity pension claims, the ministry hopes to slash what Koutroumanis termed "profligacy and theft" costing 80 million to 100 million euros a year.

Greece’s budget deficit plunged the country into crisis in May, leading the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to lend it 110 billion euros, on condition that it introduce swingeing austerity measures.

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