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Our View: AG was absolutely right to give deputies a telling off

ATTORNEY-GENERAL Costas Clerides felt obliged to respond to accusations that the legal service was taking too long over their investigation into the collapse of the economy and the banking sector. Deputies, on Monday, accused the state legal service of inaction and delay and of failing to prosecute anyone, apart from the former Governor of the Central Bank, Christodoulos Christodoulou, for what had happened to the economy.

Clerides saw the criticism as an attempt to discredit the Attorney-general’s office and the justice system. He said that analysing the mass of information gathered that covers the period from 2006 to 2013, was “daunting both in terms of sheer volume and complexity”. He has a point, but the truth is that he had informed the president a couple of months ago that results would be announced within a few weeks, something that did not happen.

That the investigations are moving at a very slow pace is fact. Christodoulou, for instance, was finally charged a couple of weeks ago, despite the legal services having the relevant information for months. Perhaps this is because the Attorney-general’s office does not have the expertise to conduct investigations into banking fraud, money transfers, dubious investments etc. There had been talk of hiring foreign experts to help the investigation but it took a long time for the Attorney-general to take the decision, which may partially explain the delay.

Deputies, who have been making the fuss about the delays, are in a hurry because their investigation, conducted by the House Institutions Committee, is now ready and they are eager to publicise the names of people who had received bank loans on favourable terms and without adequate security as well as of those who transferred money out of the country before last year’s Eurogroup meetings.

Deputies want to turn the procedure into a type of witch-hunt, because they could then present themselves as the champions of the clean-up. Lists with names of Bank of Cyprus executives and directors who had supposedly received favourable loans have already appeared on one website. The website subsequently deleted the names after it had received complaints about the inaccuracy of the data it had published. This is the danger of publishing lists of names, without explanations about their loans.

We would all like to see those criminally responsible for the collapse of the banking sector brought before justice, but the Attorney-general needs to build a solid case against them. This cannot be done by releasing lists with names as our deputies seem to think. Clerides was absolutely right in telling his critics the following:

“If some believe, or wish to cause people to believe, that by merely handing to authorities documents related to a certain malfeasance, that this is sufficient to take someone to court, this betrays a complete ignorance of how institutions and procedures work, and serves nothing but to stoke people’s impatience and their already shattered confidence in institutions.”

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