By Elias Hazou
A CRIMINAL probe into what caused Cyprus’ economic meltdown will span the years 2006 to 2013, covering the transfer of capital from Laiki Bank to Greece, dodgy loans, the issuing of securities by both Laiki and Bank of Cyprus (BoC), and banks’ activities abroad, such as BoC’s acquisition of Uniastrum and Banca Transilvania.
The scope of the investigation was mapped out Thursday at a meeting between the Attorney-general, the justice minister, the police chief and other officials.
Speaking to reporters later, Attorney-general Petros Clerides said a decision was made to focus on certain aspects because it would be impossible to investigate the whole range of issues.
It was agreed that the police are to lead the investigations, but due to the technical nature of the subject matter they would be assisted by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In addition, and as the need arises, experts would be appointed to aid the police. These might include bankers, auditors or accountants, Clerides said.
The police would also receive ‘guidance’ from the Attorney-general’s office and from the Central Bank.
“Our goal is to work effectively so as to get to the bottom of any offences committed and bring those responsible to justice,” Clerides said.
For his part justice minister Ionas Nicolaou said he was satisfied with the MO decided upon Thursday, reiterating that the government would not rest until the real culprits are led to court.
Wary of accusations of a whitewash, the administration was forced into launching criminal investigations after a committee of inquiry – appointed by it – decided to steer clear of any cases that are either pending before the courts or are being investigated by police.
Given that several legal actions are directed at Laiki, BoC as well as the Central Bank, the panel’s decision severely limited its range of investigation – raising questions as to its continued usefulness.
Either way, the panel’s findings are not legally binding, and would have served merely as recommendations for initiating prosecutions.
The Cabinet will Friday discuss the panel’s future and could decide to abolish it.
The three-member panel has been dogged by mishaps from the outset. Two of its initial members quit for various reasons soon after they were appointed by the President to “probe civil, criminal or political liabilities concerning developments in Cyprus’ banking sector.”
Oddly enough, the appointment of criminal investigators is understood to have been the initial choice of President Anastasiades, who later changed tack and decided instead to go with an investigative panel.