Mon, 22 July 2024

Rooting out Cyprus’ Corruption at the top

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Kyriakos Pieridis, AEJ Media Representative. Nicosia 23/02/2024

Anastasiades’ Inheritance – of the “Two States” solution and corruption in Cyprus

On February 2, the Anti-Corruption Authority in Cyprus officially announced the start of a self-initiated investigation into revelations made by journalist Makarios Drousiotis in his book State – Mafia. The investigation will examine “possible acts of corruption” by former President Nicos Anastasiades. Gabrielle Mclntyre, an Australian expert in international criminal law and procedure. She was appointed head of the investigative team, receiving her mandate on February 12. She will be assisted by three Cypriot legal experts.

Political Struggle

Drousiotis left with ex-President

Drousiotis, in a post on “X” (16/2), revealed that a few days later, Anastasiades sent him a letter through his lawyer demanding “the withdrawal of his books, an apology, and compensation.” However, the former president welcomed (19/2) the Authority’s decision to “initiate an investigation into false and unsubstantiated claims and a reproduced fiction,” as he announced.

For years a conflict has been unfolding, with Nicos Anastasiades on one side and Makarios Drousiotis and some other journalists on the other, who write about the corruption of the former president. Documented and supported by evidence in his book, Drousiotis managed to reach nearly 100,000 readers, regardless of being “cut off” from all Cypriot television channels. In the book State Mafia, he deals, among other things, with the massive selling of “golden passports” set up by Anastasiades government.

Passports Industry

Approximately 7,000 “golden passports” were approved by Anastasiades’ Cabinet. Many details about these practices over almost a decade have were unveiled. More than half of the passports were deemed by an investigative committee, under Judge Nicolaou, to have been issued illegally.

Anastasiades himself admitted to managing around 60 such cases through his daughters’ law firm. The FBI is searching for many of them because they are associated with Putin. Others are international fugitives, fraudsters, and politically exposed persons.

While serving as president from 2013 to 2023, Anastasiades demonstrated capabilities in influencing the Cypriot political system, institutions, and media. His resilience began to be tested when the international news network Al Jazeera  brought to light the infamous “golden passports” video on October 12, 2020.

It was merely the tip of the iceberg of money-laundering and collusion with the highest echelons political power in Cyprus. “If you dare mention Al Jazeera, you will go to hell,” Anastasiades warned the journalists (off the record on October 13, 2020). The statement leaked in a video, and the whole world learned about it.

Resilient

Anastasiades proved to be very resilient. Recognizing the danger of being exposed for selling “golden passports”, he took timely action on June 29, 2020, by appointing George Savvides and Savvas Angelides to the two key positions in the justice system of Cyprus – Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General, respectively.

They are trusted friends who also served as ministers in the same cabinet that distributed the passports. As a result, numerous pieces of evidence from investigations are sitting in their drawer.

Only the Attorneys General have the authority to initiate criminal prosecutions in Cyprus. Cyprus Attorney General and Deputy, alone among all EU member states, do not hold anyone accountable for their actions.

Their notorious “unchecked and uncheckable” status was identified by the European Commission as the sore point that virtually paralyses the judicial system in dealing with serious cases of corruption. Now it relentlessly pressures Nicosia for compliance, leaving the option open to bring the “golden passport” case to the EU Court.

Media

During his tenure the former president also took care to involve many in the “golden passports” scheme (politicians, political parties, contractors, prominent lawyers, accountants, etc.). Those who served as close collaborators of Anastasiades, advisers, and communication experts are also in the same boat.

Some, during the Nikolaou investigation, revealed details and anomalies about the system’s excesses. Cypriot journalism lacked of deliver their mission to investigate scandals involving Anastasiades, especially television channels and their owners. The newspaper Politis and other journalists often found themselves in Anastasiades’ crosshairs with various indirect threats of legal prosecutions. That’s why today, the Drousiotis case is significant for the whole of Cyprus.

 Exploiting Nationalism

The era of Anastasiades, apart from corruption, fostered nationalism more strongly than ever before, destroying public opinion in the Greek Cypriot Community to reach a compromise for the unification of the island based on UN resolutions.

The deterioration of the Cyprus issue following the failure of the Crans Montana Peace Talks, led by the UN in 2017, is linked to the “golden passport” industry, which the former president was unwilling to halt at its peak.

The late Archbishop Chrysostomos II exposed Anastasiades shortly after Al Jazeera: “In discussions we had, the President told me that he saw the solution as two states, and I strongly disagreed with him” (interview with Politis on December 28, 2020).

Personal testimonies are resounding about what Anastasiades did with Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu in Crans Montana and onwards to topple the UN efforts. “Anastasiades said that he can’t reach an agreement with the Turks (Turkey), and better we (the Greek Cypriots) end up with two states,” said former Foreign Minister Kasoulidis in a recent interview (Legal Matters). Kasoulidis urged Anastasiades “not to mention (two states) ever again.”

Half a Century after ‘74

Greek minister Christos Stylianides, a former EU Commissioner, came under criticism for his statement that “half of Cyprus has already become Turkish.” The Cypriot-born minister made this remark before the Greek Parliament on the occasion of half a century after the Turkish invasion, warning that “Hellenism in Cyprus has no other margins in Cyprus.”

He meant that the division of Cyprus has reached a critical point, and there are no more margins or limits left for Greek Cypriots other than a compromise. He implied a sense of urgency to stop the process of the “two states solution. 

Only those who willingly turn a blind eye did not understand what Stylianides meant, expressing his concern about the fate of Cyprus today. The international reliability of the Greek Cypriot leadership to reach an agreement in Cyprus dropped dramatically after 2004 onwards, losing the moral advantage against powerful Turkey which still stations 40.000 troops in Cyprus northern half.

Christodoulides, the current president of Cyprus, is the politician favoured by Anastasiades. In critical moments – before and after Crans Montana – Christodoulides served as spokesman and foreign minister, the closest person to Anastasiades obeying his orders.

Now, over corruption, he tries to distance himself. He accepted to allow FBI unit to settle in Cyprus next May and hunt for Russian oligarchs and their billions.

Regarding the Cyprus issue, Christodoulides does not show a clear stance. This year will be crucial for the UN’s final effort. Without clear commitments, the negotiating framework for a federal reunification as presented by the UN is unlikely to be restored as until 2017.

The familiar blame game in Cyprus cannot justify Christodoulides’ political future, even if Turkey remains adamant on a two states solution. It will be too late for Cyprus to find a way out and half of the island will be irreversibly lost.

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