Cyprus Mail

Vgenopoulos at centre of new row over party finances

Andreas Vgenopoulos has set a date with his 'accusers' in court

By Stefanos Evripidou

As implementation of the rules on political parties’ finances continues to remain pending, ruling DISY yesterday rushed to reject speculation that it received money from Greek banker Andreas Vgenopoulos.

It did acknowledge, however, receipt of €500,000 during the 2008 presidential elections from a group of ship-owners based in the UK and Greece, without giving further details on their identities.

It seems that the spectre of former Laiki strongman Vgenopoulos, whom many hold responsible for the collapse of the island’s banking system, continues to haunt the island as the country’s two biggest parties, DISY and AKEL, both refuted allegations in the last two days of receiving money from him, as did Vgenopoulos in a written statement.

“It is a fact that political parties, including the Democratic Rally (DISY), beyond state grants, have for years been supported by contributions from their members, private individuals and businesses to cover budget deficits, given the inability of the state to meet election costs in the respective state elections,” said the DISY statement released yesterday evening.

It is also true that the lack of a strict legal framework has served to highlight the unreliability of the political system, leading all parties to agree on adopting the Council of Europe’s recommendations on party financing laws, known as the GRECO rules, added DISY.

Following allegations in the press recently that DISY received money from Vgenopoulos, the ruling party said it wanted to clarify that DISY set up a committee of Cypriot origin ship-owners in the UK and Greece to help finance the transport of Cypriot students from abroad to the island to participate in the 2008 presidential elections.

This committee of ship-owners “collected the amount of half a million euros which was transferred to the party, through a Cypriot ship management company”.

“As such, regarding reports that have seen the light of day and leave the impression that DISY received financial help from Mr Andreas Vgenopoulos, the party clarifies that it never accepted any contribution from Mr Vgenopoulos.”

DISY adds that it continues to have zero tolerance for any financial scandals which resulted in today’s economic crisis.

“Our position remains that those who are responsible must be definitely brought before justice.”

The Cyprus Mail spoke to DISY spokesman Prodromos Prodromou to ask the name of the Cypriot ship management company which channelled the funds to the party.

Prodromou said he was not aware of the company’s name, as this was the responsibility of the committee set up to collect money to bring over students from abroad to vote.

He added that he was not even a member of the party at the time, though he was a member of the campaign team working for the election of DISY’s Ioannis Kasoulides.

The party leader at the time was current President Nicos Anastasiades.

According to sources, the half a million euros given to DISY for the election campaign was deposited after the first Sunday of the elections, and before the second Sunday, when only two candidates remained: Kasoulides and eventual winner, AKEL’s Demetris Christofias.

Adding to the intrigue, on Thursday night, Sigma TV had Polys Polyviou on a live news show, the man who wrote a 650-page report assigning personal responsibility to Christofias for the Mari explosion.

During the show, apart from blaming Christofias for the Mari explosion, Polyviou also accused opposition party AKEL of taking money from Vgenopoulos.

AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou called in to the show, saying to Polyviou, “see you in court”.

He said if Polyviou had the chance he would throw AKEL to the gas chambers like Hitler did the Jews and accused the lawyer of brazen lies and unsubstantiated arguments. He questioned why Polyviou has not published evidence against the party if he had it.

In turn, Polyviou said Kyprianou’s threats of court action were the usual tactic of those who fear the truth.

“I did my duty and have the right to express myself freely,” said Polyviou.
Kyprianou responded, “I did not speak of threats, he is threatening me.”

Meanwhile, Vgenopoulos released a written statement, saying: “I have never given a grant, or made any contribution or donation to AKEL or any other political party in Cyprus or Greece, and never did any government do me any favours.”

“I challenge those conducting a smear campaign who claim the opposite to publish immediately the evidence, as they should have done before making defamatory statements, because in any case, they will be invited to submit it as defendants before justice.”

House President and EDEK leader Yiannakis Omirou also waded in to the debate yesterday, saying that his party has nothing to do with financing either from Vgenopoulos or Greek ship-owner Michalis Zolotas.

The latter has also been in the local press lately, after Politis reported that, in 2007, Zolotas- believed to be an associate of Vgenopoulos- allegedly made a €1 million payment into an account belonging to a company headed by the daughter of former Central Bank governor Christodoulos Christodoulou.

Omirou called on the Attorney-general and MOKAS (financial fraud squad) to make public the names of those parties financed by the Greek company Focus- a company belonging to Zolotas- so as not to taint and leave shadows over the entire political system.

Archbishop Chrysostomos II said he agreed with Omirou that “all those who took kickbacks and stole, creating this economic mess for the people, some of whom are now hungry, should be punished.”

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