By Angelos Anastasiou
AS THE two major political parties remain under fire and their leaders have scheduled meetings with the Attorney-general (AG) over controversial donations, the House appeared to be headed towards not publishing the names of those who moved money before the March 2013 banking crisis.
Ruling DISY and opposition AKEL both reportedly received a total of €2 million in donations from Focus Maritime Corporation, a company owned by Greek shipowner Michalis Zolotas – an “associate and close friend of [failed Laiki former strongman] Andreas Vgenopoulos”, around the time of the 2008 presidential elections.
Focus was also involved in a suspicious €1 million transfer to former Governor of the Central Bank Christodoulos Christodoulou in 2007, two months after he had stepped down. The company was also said to have received millions in loans from Laiki Bank, which have yet to be repaid and are classed as non-performing.
But initial denials soon gave way to excuses and rationalisations. At first, DISY said that the money – €500,000 – was not paid by Zolotas or Focus, but by a consortium of Cypriot shipowners in Athens and London who offered the fund the transport students to Cyprus for the election. The party said it would return the money to Laiki’s depositors if the claims were backed by evidence from the AG’s investigation. Late on Thursday, the party admitted it discovered €50.000 paid by Focus into one of its accounts shortly before the election, and issued a cheque payable to Laiki’s administrator for the amount.
AKEL maintained that it had never received any money from Focus, despite Politis’ claims that roughly €1.5 million was paid to the party via proxy – €1 million through an intermediary offshore company and €500.000 through a law firm, which confirmed receipt of the money but rejected the claim it did so on AKEL’s behalf.
Party chief Andros Kyprianou contacted the AG Costas Clerides and asked to be informed of any evidence linking the party to Focus, and a meeting was set for after Easter.
In a perhaps not unrelated issue, on Wednesday the House Ethics committee came to a unanimous decision to include the names of all individuals and companies that moved funds out of Cyprus, or were granted loans with favourable terms. The list, said to include some 11.000 names, was prepared during the committee’s probe into the causes of the collapse of the economy. The decision appalled the business community who said it would be disastrous for the economy.
The mass criticism caused the two major parties to backpedal. Late on Thursday, DISY argued that indiscriminately publishing would serve only to muddy the waters as truly suspicious transfers would get lost in the bulk of normal business transactions.
AKEL soon followed suit through its spokesman and Ethics Committee member Giorgos Loucaides. “We are happy that DISY has adopted our position on publicising transactions relating only to politically exposed persons,” Loucaides said.
Yesterday Kyprianou completed the U-turn while attempting to pre-empt charges of caving to the business world.
“We do not share the arguments made either by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry or the banking sector; our views are guided by our belief that it is not right for people to be vilified with no evidence against them,” he said.
With AKEL and DISY enjoying a comfortable majority on the Ethics committee, the decision is sure to be amended to accommodate their positions.