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Our View: Fall of grace for ethics report on financial meltdown

Demetris Syllouris, President of the House Ethics Committee

EVERYTHING in Cyprus seems to end in farce. We were reminded of this as the House ethics committee finally concluded its much-trumpeted investigation into the collapse of the economy that was supposed to identify and expose all those responsible for the meltdown. The meetings dragged on for many, while the chairman of the committee, Demetris Syllouris kept promising publicly that the investigation would dig as deep as possible and spare nobody. It was as if he was trying to re-assure himself rather than the public.

The committee’s 440-page report was available yesterday and will be discussed by the House plenum next week, but nobody is holding their breath about it. Despite Syllouris’ many promises, the investigation will be no different from the one conducted on the orders of president Anastasiades, by a panel of three judges last year that failed to identify the culprits. At least the judges had not made any big promises about exposing the culprits and shedding light on what had gone wrong – Syllouris made big promises that he was unable to deliver.

This was why he spent the last four weeks, threatening to release the list of 11,000 names that had transferred money out of Cyprus from June 2012 to March 2013, just before the Eurogroup meeting. His committee had found nothing else worth reporting and decided to conduct a witch-hunt against individuals and companies that had done nothing wrong or illegal. For the last three weeks, deputies have been debating whether the list would be released, as if it were the people who lawfully transferred money out of the country, for whatever reason, that caused the collapse of the economy.

Only last week did it occur to Syllouris that the people his report should have been exposing were those who had somehow managed to transfer funds out of the country during the banks’ lockdown. They had actually violated the rules of the country, but the intrepid deputy did not think of naming and shaming them, claiming that the Central Bank had refused to hand over this information.

Of course, the fact that this supposedly thorough investigation has become obsessed with naming and shaming people, who had nothing to do with the collapse, and initiating witch-hunts against them indicates how futile the whole exercise was. Perhaps after the committee’s failure to find the culprits, it will become clear that the economic meltdown was not the work of two, three or four individuals but the inevitable collapse of a rotten system controlled by corrupt and incompetent politicians, officials, bankers, union bosses and businessmen, who eventually run it into the ground.

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