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Cyprus

DISY fesses up to Focus money

Focus is owned by Greek shipowner Michalis Zolotas who is in turn linked to Vgenopoulos (photo)

By George Psyllides

RULING DISY has fessed up to receiving €50,000 in contributions from Focus Maritime Corporation in 2008, but has not been able to account for the other €450,000 it allegedly got from the same company.
In a statement late yesterday, DISY said it discovered the cash was transferred into one of the contributions accounts the party set up specifically for the 2008 presidential elections. It said the €50,000 was wired by Focus on February 13, 2008 into an account to subsidise air fares for students flown in from abroad to vote in the elections.

DISY said the reason it had missed the transfer earlier was because they had been looking in the wrong place, having previously checked only the party’s “regular” accounts. But in the wake of the media hubbub over a paper trail linking their party to Focus, it then decided to sift through “special accounts” opened during the time in question.

“Regardless, this [transaction] did not constitute an illegal act, and moreover had DISY known at the time about the company’s [Focus] activities, the party would never have accepted such funding,” it said in a statement.

Focus is owned by Greek shipowner Michalis Zolotas who is in turn linked to Vgenopoulos, whom many here blame for the collapse of Laiki. Focus allegedly received large loans – some without adequate security – from Laiki during the time Vgenopoulos was at the helm of the bank.

Having traced the €50,000, said DISY, it has issued a cheque for the same amount in the name of the administrator of Laiki Bank – currently being wound down – so that the money would be credited to the banks’ depositors.

“We have nothing to hide and we operate within full transparency,” it added.

On reports that a far larger amount found its way from Focus into DISY’s coffers, the party said it had no such information.

It promised also to table a bill conforming to the recommendations of the Council of Europe’s Anti-Corruption Group on party financing, once parliament reconvenes after the Easter break.

Earlier this week, Politis reported that Focus paid €500,000 directly to DISY in ten instalments of €50,000 each in January and February of 2008, and almost €1.5 million to AKEL – of which €1 million was paid through offshore Abendale Management Corporation in two equal instalments in September 2007, and €450,000 in June 2008 through audit firm Kyprianides, Nicolaou & Partners. The transfers were made around the time of Cyprus’ 2008 presidential elections.

The two parties denied any wrongdoing.

Earlier yesterday DISY said it had not taken any money from Focus. The money came from Cypriot and Greek shipowners who wanted to help bring Cypriot students from abroad to vote in the elections.

“We are certain that the source of the money is not Focus,” DISY spokesman Prodromos Prodromou had said, only for his remarks to be repudiated hours later.

Meanwhile auditors Kyprianides, Nicolaou & Partners were swift to deny their involvement in any donations made to AKEL. In a statement issued on Wednesday, the company confirmed receipt of €450,000 but claimed the transaction related to services rendered.

AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou said the firm’s response was clear.

“As regards the other company, we are looking into it and do not even know which company this is … and whether it has any link with AKEL,” Kyprianou said.

He said that was the reason he asked to meet the attorney-general: because it has been suggested that political parties were under investigation and the parties knew nothing.

“As far as I understand, we have no relation with what has seen the public light,” he said, calling on Politis to provide the evidence linking the company to AKEL.

Attorney-general Costas Clerides declined to publically confirm or deny reports suggesting the island’s biggest parties had received moneys from Focus.

In a statement issued yesterday, Clerides said he would be meeting the leaders of the two parties after Easter to “confirm or deny the correctness of the published information” claiming that AKEL and DISY received €2 million between them from Focus.

The meeting was sought by the leaders.

“As standard practice, the legal service does not publically confirm or deny information that constitutes evidence in ongoing criminal investigations that are published without its knowledge or consent,” Clerides said.

The attorney-general said the available information would be handed over to the parties involved provided that it would not hurt the investigation.


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