By Angelos Anastasiou
The Church, and First Lady Andri Anastisiades on Wednesday hit back at a report in Phileleftheros implying there was something amiss about her purchase of a piece of land from the Archbishopric.
Mrs Anastasiades bought a 1,739-square-metre plot of land adjacent to her residence from the Archbishopric last February at a cost significantly lower than its market value, according to local daily Phileleftheros.
The paper claimed on Wednesday that the residential property in Yermasoyia, Limassol, was sold to Mrs Anastasiades for €500.000 and cited independent appraiser opinions that estimated its current market value at €870.000.
The President’s protection detail had already been using the property prior to the purchase and had even constructed an outpost for the guards.
Archbishop Chrysostomos was also implicated in the story, as he was the signatory on the transaction.
In a written statement on Wednesday, the Archbishopric expressed its dismay at the paper’s article and denied any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour.
“It is well-known that the Holy Archbishopric holds a significant number of properties in many areas in Cyprus, which are available for sale in the free market for any and all who may be interested,” the statement said.
The Archbishopric has never made a secret of its effort to sell property, the statement continued, and to this end it sold several plots of land in September 2013 to the pension fund of a semi-governmental organisation.
“The sale to Mrs Anastasiades was made in the conditions of the free market, considering the current economic environment, the property’s current value and its specific characteristics, and therefore nothing questionable has taken place.”
The Archbishop went on the offensive in signing off the statement, accusing the paper of trying to mislead the public.
“We would like to express our regret at the article that leads the public to erroneous conclusions. We also express our disappointment and bewilderment at this particular newspaper’s choice to publish the article without contacting the Holy Archbishopric for the necessary explanations and opinions,” the statement concluded.
The First Lady also issued a brief response, expressing her surprise at the piece and suggesting that “an effort is being made to turn a legal private transaction into a political issue.”
Andri Anastasiades also felt that, following the Archbishopric’s statement, no further comment would be necessary.
The Green Party, in an announcement equated the First Lady with Caesar’s wife and calls for an explanation.
“Two thousand years ago the Romans said Caesar’s wife must not only be honest but be seen to be honest,” the party said.
“Today, in an era where impressions matter, this principle takes on even greater meaning.”
Later in the day, President Anastasiades issued a written statement himself, defending his track record of honesty and deeming the suggestive article an “indecency.”
“It has been my lifelong belief that what is legal is not necessarily ethical,” the President’s statement said.
“That is why, in my long career I have never been on the board of any companies or banks, nor have I ever been involved in any action that could be deemed questionable.”
“Nor can the purchase of a plot of land adjacent to our family residence by my wife be considered questionable. It was clearly a private and transparent transaction, one in which the terms were dictated by the market.”
“On the contrary, it constitutes indecency for such matters to be used in petty politics and settling political and business disputes.”
“These critical times warrant responsible and serious attitudes from all,” the President’s statement concluded.