By Elias Hazou
Fresh out of jail, former Central Bank governor and convicted tax dodger Christodoulos Christodoulou is looking to rekindle his career – as a lawyer.
His recent application to practice law slipped through the Nicosia bar association, but not the Cyprus Bar association, where an employee put two and two together.
Daily Politis, which reported the story, said Christodoulou filed his papers with the Nicosia bar association which, apparently not realising who the applicant was, processed the application and forwarded it onto the Cyprus Bar Association.
Costas Demetriades, President of the Nicosia bar association, subsequently explained what happened, in an email of his obtained by Politis.
In the email, Demetriades said he thought the applicant was another person of the same name, and so he signed off on the application.
“How was I to know that the former governor of the Central Bank is a lawyer?” Demetriades was quoted as saying.
But then at the higher level, the Cyprus Bar Association, an attentive employee realised who the applicant really was.
The Cyprus Bar Association did not endorse Christodoulou’s application and sent it back to Nicosia.
According to Politis, the incident has also served to highlight the shortcomings in the registration process for lawyers, as currently an aspiring lawyer is not required to appear in person when submitting his or her application.
It’s understood that Christodoulou had someone else submit his papers.
Applicants must file their papers to their local bar association which, if it endorses the application, forwards it to the higher authority – the Cyprus Bar Association – for final approval.
But Christodoulou’s case has demonstrated something else – that persons convicted of a criminal offence are not automatically barred from registering as lawyers or from practicing.
After passing the bar exam, a person may apply to be listed on the advocates registry. If he or she then wants to practice, they must register with their local bar association.
It turns out Christodoulou was in fact seeking to renew his lawyer’s license, having been registered as an advocate in the past. Lawyers renew their licenses in the January to March period.
His license has therefore not been revoked or suspended by the Advocates’ Disciplinary Council after his conviction for tax evasion. Christodoulou was released from prison last month after serving a five-month sentence.
Although he was tried in a district court, not a criminal court, Christodoulou was found guilty of “willingly and knowingly” attempting to defraud the state by not filing a proper tax form.
Where fraud is proven in tax evasion, it is a criminal offence.
Under the Code of Conduct Regulations of the Cyprus Bar Association, a lawyer committing a criminal offence is not automatic grounds for disbarment. Each case is judged on its merits by the Advocates’ Disciplinary Council.
The code of conduct states: “If a lawyer is convicted by any court for any criminal offence which, in the Disciplinary Council’s view, entails moral turpitude, or if a lawyer is, in the Disciplinary Council’s view, guilty of shameful or fraudulent conduct, or conduct unbecoming the profession,” it may order the lawyer stricken from the advocates registry – disbarment – or the license suspended.
Legal sources tell the Cyprus Mail that the Disciplinary Council plans to summon Christodoulou “sometime soon.”
According to Wikipedia, in 1969 Christodoulou entered the Law School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, graduating as a lawyer by 1972 and registering as a European lawyer within the next year. In 1988 he joined the University of Wales where he gained his PhD in Labour Law by 1992.