By Angelos Anastasiou
The creation of a new movement under the name “Bring back the stolen money” was announced on Thursday by lawyer Eleni Vrahimi, which will aim at recovering ill-gotten gains by bankers and politicians for the benefit of depositors and taxpayers.
Speaking at a news conference, in which she argued that the state of the Cypriot justice system was unacceptable, Vrahimi said that respect for the system and institutions cannot be demanded when the “representatives of the institutions are anything but respectable”.
She was referring mainly to the judges sitting on the Supreme Court, whom she described as “inadequately trained” because most were trained in law at Greek universities, whereas Cyprus has constitutionally adopted the British legal system.
“In Cyprus, you are not a lawyer if you hold a Greek law degree,” she claimed.
Vrahimi went on to cite various incidents which she felt demonstrated the judges’ self-serving agenda, including a 2013 ruling to reverse a pay cut imposed on judges, as well as last year’s Supreme Court decision to allow former public officials to receive multiple pensions, and proposed elaborate testing for judicial appointees.
Long involved in the island’s political scene, initially as a member of the Democratic Rally (DISY) until her walk-out over the party’s support of the Annan Plan in 2004 and then as a member of the European Party – formed by fellow DISY defectors – Vrahimi launched a scathing attack on President Nicos Anastasiades’ failure to use his veto on judicial appointees, which she claimed are made by cliques within the Supreme Court itself.
“We were told that ‘the crisis wants a leader’,” she said, referring to Anastasiades’ campaign slogan in 2013. “But where are the ‘bright minds’ we were promised?”
“Cyprus is falling apart and our President tells us that he was fooled by his partners. They didn’t fool him – they helped him win the Presidency because they knew what to expect from him.”
Vrahimi said a cabinet reshuffle was imperative so that the new ministers could overhaul the status of civil servants, proposing specific measures such as receiving provident fund and lump-sum retirement bonuses only to the extent of their own contributions.
Also, she said, the “Bring back the stolen money” movement will aim at recovering outrageous payments made to banks’ “golden boys”, including bonuses paid on inflated profit figures.
And, in a surprising assertion – given her status as upholder of the law – Vrahimi said that every high-ranking official’s salary and assets should be disclosed, by abolishing their right to privacy.
“There is no right to privacy under the current circumstances,” she said.