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Our View: Focus saga shows why it’s crucial that parties reveal their funding

AKEL's head Andros Kyprianou

IT IS INCREDIBLE that AKEL is still denying the allegations that it had received €1.5 million in contributions from Focus Maritime Corporation, a company owned by Michalis Zolotas, an associate of Andreas Vgenopoulos, the man who bankrupted Laiki Bank. Vgenopoulos has also denied he had any connection to Focus and Zolotas and claimed that he had “never given money to politicians”, but he could hardly be described as a trustworthy or reliable witness.

DISY, which received €500,000 from Focus in 2007, at least avoided playing the AKEL game. Last December, the party admitted it had received an amount from a group of ship-owners based in London and the UK, and used it for the 2008 election campaign, but claimed, until late last night, it did not know that the source was actually Focus. On Wednesday it said that if it were proved that the money came from Laiki NPLs then the full amount would be returned to Laiki depositors. Ironically, Focus Maritime had received tens of millions in loans from Laiki that were not being repaid.

AKEL in contrast has been insisting it had received no money from Focus, despite reports that the Attorney-general’s office has documentation on the money trail. The party had thought it had covered its tracks because the money went to a front company by the name of Abendale Management Corp, but police investigators, reportedly traced the money all the way to the party. The party chief Andros Kyprianou urged Politis, which broke the story, to substantiate its claims, ignoring the fact that the paper was reporting findings of an investigation by the Attorney-general’s office.

Vgenopoulos’ generosity towards AKEL, may explain why the party’s spokesmen always avoided saying anything against the Greek banker in public. More interestingly, the investigation by Alvarez & Marsal that was commissioned by the AKEL government to find those guilty for the collapse of the banking sector did not touch Laiki Bank. A&M had written instructions from the then Governor of the Central Bank – AKEL appointeed Panicos Demetriades – to investigate only the Bank of Cyprus, which was in a much better financial position than the insolvent Laiki.

Why had Laiki not been investigated? Did AKEL’s appointee have instructions to spare the party’s benefactor?

This is why it is of critical importance for the parties to be obliged by law to publish lists of their contributors – with the amount of money and name. None of the parties are too keen on the idea, and have been dragging their feet. It goes without saying that the biggest opponents to this much-needed transparency on party funding have been the deputies of AKEL.

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