Cyprus Mail

Palace admits CBC Governor’s contract blunder

By Angelos Anastasiou

THE government does not consider the matter of Central Bank (CBC) governor Chrystalla Georghadji’s contract closed, but does acknowledge that its handling of the issue was “problematic”, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said yesterday.

He was referring to the controversy caused in recent weeks after it was revealed that Georghadji had altered two clauses in her contract of employment, allowing her daughter – a lawyer with a law firm owned by Georghadji’s former husband – to represent ex-Laiki Bank boss Andreas Vgenopoulos, whom the CBC has taken to court, and raising her annual salary by €10,000, in line with pay increases given to the CBC’s permanent staff.

During a House Ethics committee session on Tuesday, Georghadji admitted to having made the changes herself, but only to align the template contract she had been given with the provisions of the law governing the operation of the Central Bank, and claimed that she had attached a note to the altered contract before returning it to the Presidential Palace for President Anastasiades, informing him of the changes.

In a harsh statement on October 31, Anastasiades had denied any knowledge of changes in Georghadji’s contract and accused her of lying to deputies, sparking the ensuing furor.

Speaking on state radio yesterday, Christodoulides said that Anastasiades plans to invite Georghadji to the Presidential Palace soon.

“In the coming days, the President will summon the governor to the Palace so that they can have a private meeting in order to discuss the points he raised in his statement, and depending on the outcome of the meeting he will make a statement,” said Christodoulides.

“As you understand, the issue is not considered closed for the government.”

The government spokesman declined to reveal details of the meeting’s agenda, but acknowledged that presidential aides were also at fault in allowing an altered contract to make it to the President’s desk for his signature.

“We must be honest,” he said. “Indeed, the handling of this matter by the Presidential Palace was problematic – it’s no use hiding behind our finger.”

In a statement later yesterday, deputy spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos said the meeting had not yet been finalised.
“When it’s set, it will be announced,” he said.

Meanwhile, opposition parties also consider the matter very much open.

Ethics committee chairman Fidias Sarikas told state radio that the committee will persist in investigating the inner workings at the Presidential Palace that allowed the blunder to take place, and various other issues.

“It appears that due to time constraints [Georghadji’s] appointment contract was signed first, while the employment contract was signed at a later date, although it bears a date of April 10,” said Sarikas.

He said the committee’s goal is to decide on the existence of a conflict of interest, in case the alterations to Georghadji’s contract were made to cover her relation with her daughter, and whether the appointment of a criminal investigator is called for.

AKEL and DIKO also protested the government’s claims, focusing on the revelation that the head of the President’s Office Panayiotis Antoniou – who had been responsible for drafting and delivering the contract to Anastasiades – had been abroad when Georghadji’s contract was being negotiated and prepared, and that in his absence the matter had been handled by presidential media aide Makarios Droushiotis.

“Who is President in this country – Nicos Anastasiades or Makarios Droushiotis?” asked DIKO spokeswoman Christiana Erotokritou.

EVROKO head Demetris Syllouris was more candid in his criticism.

“We cannot accept the ‘honest mistake’ defence,” he said. “We are not in the coffeeshop, nor are we sipping coffee in some café. This is serious.”

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