Cyprus Mail

AG urges patience in economy probe

AG Costas Clerides

By George Psyllides

Authorities were yesterday in the process of fine-tuning the terms of reference of experts who will be hired to help investigators identify the causes of the island’s economic collapse, in a bid to avoid costly mistakes of the past.

Attorney-General Costas Clerides said authorities were trying to fine-tune the scope of the services needed in an effort to “avoid mistakes made by others that cost millions.”

“It is not our intention simply to appoint an expensive firm, task them with everything and wait for months to see, if we see, a result.” Clerides said.

They were also trying to ensure that the selected firm would act independently of any connection with any Cypriot outfits.

“We are very sensitive on this matter,” Clerides said.

The state legal services are in the process of hiring a firm that will assist them in the investigation into the causes of the economic collapse.

The attorney-general told the members of the House Ethics Committee, which is carrying out its own probe, to be patient and give his office some more time
Clerides said the time was not wasted.

“We must credit investigating authorities and the legal service with being fully aware of the responsibility they have assumed,” Clerides said.

The island’s top lawyer reiterated that where possible, individual cases would be brought to justice even if the investigation was still ongoing.

“There are such cases and it is out intention, as soon as one matter was completed, perhaps with help from the experts, to close it and take it to court,” Clerides told MPs.

He struck a note of caution concerning the conclusions of the committee’s report, stressing that it should not afford potential defendants with legal weapons.

“We have in mind cases where such phenomena were exploited legally. It could have to negative results, even acquittal,” Clerides said.

Cyprus agreed to a €10 billion aid package from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union in March after its two major banks were all but decimated by their heavy exposure to debt-crippled Greece.

The criminal investigation will span the years 2006 to 2013, covering the transfer of capital from the now defunct Laiki Bank to Greece, dodgy loans, the issuing of securities by both Laiki and Bank of Cyprus (BoC), and banks’ activities abroad — BoC’s acquisition of Uniastrum and Banca Transilvania.

For the first time in the history of the eurozone’s debt crisis, bank depositors were forced to shoulder the burden of recapitalising lenders.

A three-member committee investigated the economic debacle in 2013 but did not look into possible criminal offences that led to the collapse of the banking system.

The committee of former judges said former president Demetris Christofias was the main culprit for bringing the country to the brink of economic collapse.

Christofias had ignored technocrats who had recommended more balanced budgets in favour of increasing expenses, the panel said.

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